The audiovisual industry has been converging and will continue to converge with the IT industry to deliver unified communications and collaborative solutions. The convergence of these markets bring the best of what AV has to offer with the best of IT has completely together. AV brings to bear the enhanced lighting, acoustics and collaboration technology to make the communication seem more natural. IT delvers the infrastructure and standards that have proven to be trusted in mission critical areas for over 40 years. Together these truly converged technologies and practices enhance communication and collaboration in astounding ways.
The real question is: what truly makes unified communication and collaboration work in a corporate environment? Experience has taught us that despite all the technology and environment changes and enhancements we can make that there are a lot of organizations that don’t improve their collaboration or communication with that alone. Despite the considerable investments in technology and infrastructure, many of these organizations have not improved their communication and collaboration. Whether it is local meetings or collaboration quick-connects in small huddle spaces or videoconference meetings or group sessions in cloud based bridged sessions online the tech and tools alone have not made them more productive. The lesson we have learned is that a shift must also be made in the attitude of the entire organization. As an industry, the AV industry can offer consulting services to help customers with proces improvements to help with this shift. In order for collaboration to become part of the lifeblood and spirit of any group they must adopt the TEAM mentality.
TEAM stands for: T = Trust E = Empowerment A = Accountability M = Managed
Let’s breakdown the TEAM approach to collaboration:
Trust – Open communication in collaboration is paramount. In a recent article, Cory Schaeffer talks about the trust factor in AV/IT sales. Full open communication does not happen without full trust. Knowing that you can share ideas without repercussions is key. The organization must promote and support an environment of complete trust. Each person in a small group or project team must be able to completely depend on the rest of that team. This trust can be as simple as having a spirit of doing what you say you are going to do and knowing all others will do the same. It also goes as far as each person in the group knowing that the others “have their back.” There should also be a common goal (a mission) and each member of the group needs to know that the goal is known by all and everyone can count on every team member is working toward meeting that goal. This trust also includes the belief that each person is being completely open, honest and candid in all interactions. When you have complete trust communication is much more effective and collaborative meetings are much more productive.
Empowerment – Each person in a collaborative meeting should be empowered. Making decisions and sharing ideas is not a presentation or class; collaboration requires that everyone is on equal standing and that they have the ability to make decisions and act on those decisions. One of the major concepts in collaborative meetings is that it be creative and productive. People cannot be creative nor productive if there are constant limitations set on them. The team should be given guidelines and direction as to how to make decisions, but then they should be set free to make decisions. When a collective can collaborate and solve problems creatively and decisively they will come up with incredibly unique and sound solutions to complex problems, but this requires true empowerment. The other aspect to this empowerment is that the other members of a collaborative meetings are TRUSTing that each member has come to the meeting prepared and empowered to make decisions and act.
Accountability – In a collaborative meeting each person is required to participate and add value. Each participant is held accountable and must bring their knowledge, skill and/or experience. You may have been in a meeting where you have seen a few participants there that you wondered: why are they here? When you encounter a meeting participant who does not engage and does not share their knowledge, skill or experience, everyone loses. That attendee misses out on the full collaborative experience and losses trust and the rest of the team does not gain from their knowledge, skill or experience. It is the team’s responsibility to hold the rest of the team accountable and even assign tasks and to almost demand participation. An easier example of this is a board or council. When a board or council meets the group can go around and ask each member one at a time to participate or to address a subject. I am not saying that every collaborative meeting should use a roll call and have each member address every subject, but I am saying that every member should be held accountable to share their knowledge, skill and experience when applicable. Most importantly each member should hold themselves accountable to participate and add value to the meetings they attend.
Managed – A truly collaborative group has a coordinated effort and is managed in some way to meet an objective. The group acts in unison to meet the shared goal and this often requires a facilitator/manager. Sure the concept of collaboration is that everyone shares equally and that the result is a unified thought that ends up on a unified resource recorded and accounted for in some form of repository whether on the network, whiteboard or a document, but this usually does not happen without orchestration. A good team has a great facilitator that has the ability to manage from within. When collaboration is being done there is a member of the collaborative team that helps to guide the collaborative effort to maintain the unified effort and coordinate the documentation of the combined inputs of knowledge, skill and experience. This person usually does this as somewhat of an art form. This role can shift from person to person, but the bottom line is that the team needs to have direction and focus which usually requires a single facilitator.
The TEAM concept is one way of illustrating the concept that unified communication and collaboration tools and technology don’t necessarily increase productivity. I am reminded of a quote I have read: A genuine change must first come from within the individual, only then can he or she attempt to make a significant contribution to humanity. – Dalai Lama. I believe this is an appropriate quote here because the core of any organization is the people. In order for an organization to make a significant change, the people must first change. To make your unified communications and collaboration integration solutions work best you may want to include an element of helping an organization shift into a TEAM mentality (as a LEAN Six Sigma company we have added it to our process improvement consulting services at Thorburn Associates). Working with customers on a business to business level is a key part of adding value and being a true trusted advisor.
I’ve also recently written a more in-depth whitepaper about the Exceptional Communication Experience for Thorburn Associates. Email me at email@example.com if you would like a copy of it.
The views in this article are strictly the views of Max and do not necessarily reflect the views of his employer or business partners.