If only I could build on top of what someone else has already done. Without having to start all over on square ONE!
Familiar feeling? When time has been short, the hour late or you’ve been struggling with something complex or boring that simply has to have been done before and be available somewhere.
In my previous blog post, I wrote about how greater transparency and online collaboration help us to dare to take on and resolve challenges and difficulties. In addition, it can help us save time. Time we can spend on something more useful.
This is the fourth blog post of six on the topic of benefits for companies and their employees to communicate transparently and collaborate online.
- Overview – As the wheels turn faster, people are more important than ever before
- Agility – More sensitive feelers and faster reaction
- Resilience – Bouncing back from setbacks or daring to take on new challenges
- Effectiveness – through more direct communication channels
- Engagement, Inspiration and Innovation – bringing lasting value for both customers and employees
These blog posts are published in parallel in Swedish on the Smarter Planet blog of IBM Sweden
Build on top instead of build again
An organization doesn’t have to be very big before you risk starting to reinvent the wheel, at least in small things. The larger the organization, the more frequently it happens and the greater the double work and confusion can get.
One hour of double work is forever lost. This can turn into an immense waste for companies and organizations where associates keep doing what others have already done, or parallel initiatives get started, simply due to lack of transparency.
Only three things are needed for this to start to work:
- That associates share their work products openly – and make them easy to find, eg. by proper categorization
- That they acquire the habit of first search for if someone else has “done it” before, instead of starting to produce from scratch
- That there is a system in place to support transparency and online collaboration
How you choose to spend the saved time is another story. If we’re talking about overtime work on evenings or weekends, I suggest you spend it with family or friends, or invest in your health and fitness. But when you save time within your work hours, you may manage to produce more, boost your competence (see Agility – More sensitive feelers and faster reaction in this series – about the easy of building competence in a transparent organization) or to let yourself be inspired to novel thinking and innovations, from all this knowledge and inspiration within easy reach!
In this video with Bosch AG, you can see how they increased efficiency through transparency, seeing some processes shortened from 40 days to 6!
Easier access to experts and to expertise both saves time and improves quality
The traditional view on experts leads to a few, officially recognized, experts in a few, formally defined, areas get overloaded, become bottlenecks and chokes availability of knowledge for the main body of colleagues who, instead, have to resort to spend time on searching among their closest colleagues without finding the really good answers. A grand recipe for both waste and sub-standard solutions.
In the transparent organization, focus tends to shift from experts – the persons, that is – to expertise -the knowledge, and the definitions of the areas of expertise are made from the perspective of the colleagues and the current needs of the business, not by leadership. From “Project Management Methodology” to “good methods to handle agendas and follow up of status meetings”, sort of. Expertise becomes more democratic, you could say. (Whoever can help me with pivot tables in MS Excel will be my expert and hero, but would hardly have been classified as such by leadership.)
Naturally, when expertise is defined “in the eye of the beholder”, when it resides with more people and becomes easier accessible – both from becoming easier to find in conversations and shared documents as well as through greater ease of finding and communicating with those in the know, the savings become substantial for both organizations and associates as well. In addition, it becomes much easier to deliver top quality and do the right things from the start.
Faster onboarding in new roles and projects
A frequent special example of advantages, is onboarding. Of new employees, of existing employees in new projects or in new roles. Since knowledge and history is easier to reach, people can become productive much faster, and more independently. Gone is “Can you please gather all mails and forward to Roger Rookie, please? Don’t forget the attachments, by the way!) Then Roger has to plow through old emails for a week or so. After someone else has sat for a week finding stuff to forward in their mail files and archives, looking for all the essential stuff in need of forwarding. (And how often do you find all of that, btw?)
Instead, it becomes:
“Roger, here’s the link to our team community with all information and history of this project. There’s an onboarding activity for you to work your way through, with links to defined processes, contracts and reports. In the forum, you can see how we’ve worked on the list of demands and understand why we’ve made the decisions made. And all minutes from the steering group are there too. Just let me know if somethings seems to be missing. By the way, you should join this open community for people in your new role.There, you can learn from colleagues around the world who work with similar things, but on similar projects around the world.
IBM uses social onboarding extensively, both for new hires in the groups Soon2BBlue and New2Blue, but also for integration of new employees from mergers & acquisitions.
How much faster do you think Roger may get – and feel – productive? Do you recognize the situation of having to reinvent the wheel? Or the relief of not having too? What defines and expert for you? When you need help, do you have to find the expert or is it enough to find the expertise left behind by him or her or o you have to find the person?
If you want to read more about how we at IBM look at online collaboration tools and transparency, I recommend you to read “The only constant is change”. And if you want to read more about how to transform your organization to work more transparently, “Best practices for establishing a new way to work”.