Posts Tagged ‘teams’

Not sure why but I have for a long time talked about things in threes. Three most important things.  Three things we need to do this week.  Three reasons why.   Yes, the things we work on can get complicated – but only if you let them. My talking in threes seems to help. It helps me focus. I also hope it helps me get my message across to others.

On Friday we took one of the digital marketing teams we work with to meet the digital marketing team in a similar but different organisation. Each person had the opportunity to discuss what they do with their equivalent. It was one of those things that is easy not to get around to but worth every bit of effort when you do. I was thinking about what we got out of it and what we learnt – as individuals and a team. A lot more than three things (I hope) but perhaps the most important included;

  1. An antidote to “we’ve always done it like that”.
  2. Renewed enthusiasm for what we do.
  3. That different organisations often face very similar challenges.

That’s probably how I will describe the outcome of our day when I discuss it tomorrow.  As for whether three is in fact a magic number I am not sure but you can certainly read what Wikipedia has to say about the number three. Some cultures actually think three is a pretty unlucky number …

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Bear with me – this one is a bit random! Just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. Brilliant. In my opinion Gladwell is to this type of book what Joe Simpson is to climbing and mountaineering books – you have probably heard of or read Touching the Void but treat yourself to The Beckoning Silence. They are both genuinely good writers and apart from great subject matter the books are a great read.

Gladwell discusses the ethnic theory of plane crashes – funnily enough I was reading it during probably the roughest descent I’ve ever experienced – on an easyJet flight into Bristol Airport in 60+mph winds.  He talks about mitigated communication (downplaying the significance of what is being said) between the hierarchies that exist in an aeroplane’s cockpit – and how this differs across different cultures. He goes on to discuss Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions and in particular uncertainty avoidance which deals with a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity.  It indicates to what extent a culture programs its members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations and the effect it is likely to have on communication in such situations.

The whole thing got me thinking. Firstly, because I became aware of mine and others sometimes mitigated communication when working amongst teams of individuals that have a hierarchical dimension to them and the effect that might have on project outcomes. Secondly, because we work on projects in different countries – take for example how the Uncertainty Avoidance Index for the United Kingdom (35) compares to, the second highest in the world, Portugal (104)

Digital marketing fascinates me but making it happen in organisations and the team dynamics that contribute to success or failure equally fascinates me so I am going to find out more and take account of what I have read already – especially the effect of mitigated communication across organizational hierarchies and how the negative effects can be avoided.

A note to self and the teams I work with … If you have a view on how something should be done or how it could be done better, for whatever reason – be it your particular skills, experience or just a gut feeling – you owe it to yourself, everyone else and the project to make sure you say so in a way that instigates an appropriate response.

A little bit like ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’. I have been saying that for a long time.

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We realised some time ago that trying to keep up with the skill set required to roll out everything digital marketing has to offer was exhausting and nigh on impossible. Digital is multi-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary and so collaboration is essential. The magic happens when lots of individuals work together; planners, developers, programmers, copy writers, designers and search engine marketing and social media specialists, to name the ones I know about today. Tomorrow is anyone’s guess.  Whilst we can cover a fair amount of the specialist stuff our  job at Cinch is often about knowing enough to bring the specialists together and make sure they have what they need to do their jobs. I suppose you could say that in that sense we are specialists at being generalists.

Check out what feedingthepuppy has to say on the subject …

generalist_specilaist

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Although not a natural ‘joiner inner’ I’ve long since loved working on projects as part of a team – preferably a small one. Something between 3 -7 is my optimum or comfort zone. I’d never stopped to think about this. All I knew is that given a meeting of 10 people or more I found myself ill at ease and frustrated by either the lack of focus on finding a solution collectively or the dominance of one person’s conviction to a single solution. When Idris Motote talks about collaborative groups he pitches the optimum size at between 5-6 people and recognises from experience that problem solving in large groups can sometimes be fractious and tense.

“you need both convergent vs divergent thinking to optimize any groups creative output.”

We work with teams as big as thirty people through to small businesses of five. Often in our role as project managers we see the best work come out of a combination of convergent and divergent thinking and as long as there is trust it is this friction that drives the best work.

Guiding large meetings will always be challenging, so as a rule once the overall direction of the project is clarified, we divide into smaller working groups and get the heck out of there. We brainstorm delivery options and tease out the key issues, moving things on quickly (the sprint phase). We then then regroup (the huddle phase). And start all over again.

The team is more nimble, adaptive and energised. There are no long lulls between big meetings. Every member of the delivery team is responsible to each other and are able and empowered to contribute to shorter more regular meeting.

In short it drives a good pace, keeps us all thinking and most importantly it gets things done.

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