Improving Collaboration Effectiveness

In his article ROI Demystified: Collaboration Tools, Nick Fera references the study “Competitive advantage from better interactions” which was published in The McKinsey Quarterly January 2007.

In that study McKinsey classifies labor into

  • tacit work (i.e. complex interactions)
  • transactional work (i.e. routine interactions)
  • transformational work (i.e. extraction or conversation of raw materials)

Tacit work is, what others usually call knowledge work. The study shows, that in developed countries tacit work accounts for close to 50% of the overall work. This straight and simple definition of especially non-tacit labor clearly shows, that standardization and automation won’t work to raise the productivity of knowledge workers. Such work is characterized in contrast to routine work, because the bread-and-butter of knowledge workers is about dealing with exceptions and new challenges as well as variations. They can raise their productivity by getting rid of information overload and by raising the effectiveness of what they do.

While using our own collaborative software, I experience some of these improvements in effectiveness I’d never want to miss again:

First, I stopped sending files as attachments. The point is: even if the recipient is a kind person and confirms the reception, it doesn’t imply that he will later be working with that file. In fact, he did just confirm the reception. Did he store it in the right folder or did he leave it in his email client? Will he remember the stored place once he intends to start working on it? Did he rename the file? Will he find the right version?
Our software’s file synchronization tool ensures that you work with the latest document version. Of course, it stores older versions as well and you get rid of the inconvenience to manually rename each new version with a date appendix (as some people tend to do). To sync, you don’t even have to navigate and select the file, you do a one-click sync to upload your work and in the same process receive the changes others have made.

Second, to have discussions, ideas and raw content reviewed by colleagues, a Wiki is the perfect tool. The one thing that bothered me about other Wikis was the need for having a cheat sheet available to look up the markup syntax. Since using our Wiki, that has gone due to the included WYSIWYG editor.

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