Shut Up and Learn to Collaborate!

Which is better? – working in a growing business

Jack, a copywriter working remotely, is communicated to by only his boss, Jane, and only via emails. Jack doesn’t feel involved in the company’s life and doesn’t feel a part of the team. As a result, he isn’t that committed to the project or the goals.
Jack, a copywriter working remotely, communicates with all of the team in real time throughout the day. He can access all the same people, systems and files as everyone else. He joins meetings via video link and edits documents with his manager live. His tasks and work is tracked the same way as everyone else.
You Decide.

The Challenges You Will Face Growing Your Team

To grow your business and keep your teams dynamic you have four main challenges:

  1. Keeping communication two way
  2. Keeping everyone informed
  3. Keeping everyone involved
  4. Keeping communication targeted


1. Keeping communication two way

Start-ups have excitement in the air with the whole team constantly engaging with each other. Communication works in small organisations because leaders often talk with staff, and staff provide feedback. As your business grows it’s harder to really listen and learn from staff. As a result staff become disengaged and you miss out on their insights. Use collaboration tools to keep constant two way communication.

2. Keeping everyone informed

The four goals of collaboration are:

  1. Everyone who needs to know knows
  2. Only the people who need to know are informed
  3. Anyone who can help, gives input
  4. Decisions are made in the context of the business direction and customer experience

Our staff normally work across different locations. To keep everyone informed we use social feeds (Slack) as they allow us to talk to each other in any location in real time. However, their real power is in organising conversations by topic, opportunity or issue. We can even tag certain staff members and teams to bring them into the conversation only when they are required.

3. Keeping everyone involved

Xilinx, a semiconductor manufacturer, implemented social media tools and reported an increase in engineer productivity by around 25%. They embraced collaboration and allowed employees to maintain “wikis” (online Wikipedia for a business) or online forums to share best practices and workarounds for particular problems.

Another great tool we have used for work planning is Trello. We have boards where we can see our tasks and what the rest of the team is working on. It also allows us to: assign each other tasks, link documents to tasks, vote on work priorities and store new ideas.

4. Keeping communication targeted

A joint study by a few European universities shows that communication and overall productivity tends to suffer with teams of 20+ members. In order to not get lost in miscommunication, make sure you set communication ground rules. For example: how to log task updates, how to link files to comments, and which feeds are used for what. The goal is that only the people who need to know are informed.

Collaboration works best when everyone knows their role. The next article in the scale your business series is how to replace outdated job descriptions with meaningful position contracts.