Not every working group needs to meet live. That’s because not every working group needs to function as a team. Many working groups can do fine working mostly independently, coordinating communication and learning as appropriate. By definition, teams are made up of individuals who must work interdependently to achieve a mutual objective. For them, consensus rules. And the best tool for building consensus is live, real time meetings.
The New Yorker’s Cal Newport asked Was e-mail a Mistake? He suggests it was not, given its value in asynchronous communication allowing receivers to read the senders’ messages whenever convenient for the receivers. At the same time, it is less effective for “The consensus problem” and other things requiring synchronized, real time communication. One of the examples he cites is tech companies’ “Scrums” – 15 minute daily stand-up meetings to collaboratively set up each day’s work.
As the world continues to flatten with people working whenever they want, wherever they want, it gets harder and harder to collaborate and coordinate work. There will, of course, be an ever-increasing flow of collaborative tools. And you should use the ones that work best for you. The warning is to be clear on when you need a team and how you’re going to enable those team members’ essential interdependence.
The importance of non-verbal communication comes into play here as well. At least in some specific instances, about 7% of communication is the words. About 38% comes through tone. And 55% comes through body language. One of the problems with email is that it’s tone-deaf. All you get is the words. No tone. No body language. Phone calls pick up tone. And video-conferencing picks up body language. You’re still missing the ability to be in the same room, breathing the same air as people with whom you’re trying to collaborate.
Coordinating communication across independent members of working groups can happen virtually. While they should likely meet from time to time to build relationships and connections, those meetings are not essential for working groups. On the other hand, interdependent teams need periodic meetings in line with the nature of the problems they deal with.
Teams with strategic remits are charged with looking at the long-term. They could be advisory councils and the like. Because they are thinking in terms of years or decades, they need to meet only annually or even less frequently.
Core Process Remit
Core process teams manage or guide an organization’s core strategic, organizational and operating processes. They could be boards of directors or a expanded management teams. It’s helpful for them to meet live on a regular quarterly basis, perhaps dealing with their remits on schedules that like this:
- Q1 – Talent Reviews
- Q2 – Strategic Planning (with the strategic advisory council)
- Q3 – Future Capability Planning
- Q4 – Operating Plans
Programs are the bridge between strategies and projects. As such, it’s helpful for programs to be managed more frequently than quarterly, but less frequently than weekly – say monthly.
Project teams need to get together live at least once a week for joint-problem solving and direction setting.
Tasks are the day-to-day, front-line work. If all you need from the workers is compliance, you don’t really need to meet with them on a regular basis as each person can focus on their own task. But, if you want those workers to contribute as a team, they need to meet as a team at least daily like they do in tech companies’ scrums.
The core of good crisis management is the prepare – react – bridge cycle. Ideally, you prepare in advance of a crisis. Then you are reacting to unfolding events and constantly bridging the gaps between the current reality and desired state. This rapid-cycling requires core crisis management teams to meet live at least at the beginning of each shift.
Implications for you
Make each team’s remit clear. Guide them into the right cadence of meetings – in line with their remits. Ensure the meet live as appropriate to spend time together to strengthen their ability to work interdependently.
Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #663) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.