Adopting Asynchronous Collaboration

Adopting Asynchronous Collaboration

To adopt a new way of working, you first need to know what it is.

Microsoft defines Asynchronous Collaboration as four “modes of work” created by the intersection of time and place, in other words, where and when do you collaborate?

Historically there has only been one place, the office, and two times, namely “at the same time” and “at different times”.

The technology that supports remote working has matured, and enough has already been said about the benefits to know that remote work is here to stay. Having said that, only a hopeless optimist would refuse to admit that remote working doesn’t carry some risk, and these risks are heightened if we try to impose some of the more toxic traditional workplace practices like presenteeism and micro-management.

Culture is key

Part of what we need to do to avoid these pitfalls and maximise the benefits of remote work is to develop and adopt our own culture of hybrid work, and that in turn requires an understanding of what it is, and how it can work.

The illustration below shows how we can begin codifying our understanding of the modes of work that are now possible. This is a key step in adopting hybrid work because people need to understand the art of the possible and, more importantly, what to use when.

The Four Modes of Hybrid Work © Microsoft 2022

The Four Modes of Hybrid Work © Microsoft 2022

Change, managed

This is where Adoption and Change Management (ACM) comes into play. Successful adoption requires the change to be managed, and change management is built on three pillars: leadership, communication, and learning. Apart from these pillars there are also various tools and activities, like defining success measures, that need to form part of the adoption plan.

Before, during and after

Ultimately your adoption plan needs to change hearts and minds, but people won’t buy into what they don’t understand, so it’s vital to engage them with practical examples, like this before, during and after scenario.

Before

The product design team at Contoso Electronics (Microsoft’s fictional drone manufacturer) has a weekly call to share progress, sign off changes and raise issues. They currently have half the team in the office for the call and the rest of the team is remote (with several members in far flung time zones). The weekly call is a source of frustration to all. It goes on for too long. Colleagues feel that a lot of time is wasted sharing updates that some members already know, timelines keep slipping because members wait for the update meeting before raising issues, and then everyone waits for the next meeting so see if the issue has been resolved. Members from other time zones are aggrieved that they must give up family time or sleep to attend the call. You get the picture.

During

The team leader learns about Asynchronous Collaboration and realises that their team is running the weekly call in Synchronous Apart mode. They analyse the recordings of the last few calls and realise there are several distinct activities happening in each call and decides that only one of them needs to run in this mode. The remaining activities can be done in Asynchronous Apart mode. They use Microsoft Teams to set up a plan in Planner and instruct the team to track task updates there as they happen, rather than waiting for the next meeting. They also create an Issue Tracking list using the Lists app in Teams so the team can log and resolve issues outside of the call. They arrange training to coach their team members on how to use these apps they have set up, and they lead by example by creating the first Planner tasks and issues themselves.

After

Team members are pleased with the change. Meetings are shorter and less stressful. Team members are getting comfortable using the apps set up by the team leader to work any time, any place, and the weekly update call is now focused on sharing with more time for coaching from the team leader.

The example above illustrates how we can look at the Asynchronous Collaboration concepts shared by Microsoft in their series of WorkLab Guides, and begin to adopt them in our own work to build a successful hybrid working culture.

If you would like to know more, please get in touch to learn about how change management can improve the success of your projects, or even if the project is already closed, how we can help boost adoption.

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