You can’t collaborate without structure, honestly.

It’s 2021. The future of work is here. We all want to boost flexibility and retention, we’re aiming to remove old barriers and management styles of the past and bring forward a modern multigenerational workforce. Yes yes yes…and collaboration is how we do this, right?

Honestly, collaboration can bring with it :

  • Mass Confusion
  • Decreased effectiveness in prioritsed decision making
  • Unclear accountability within teams
  • Increased time spent in meetings
  • Double work
  • Frustration

Bottom line: a fast paced working environment, without structure ,can become anarchy. The term collaboration can lead us down a dangerous dark alley if we aren’t methodical in our approach.

Through experience our team have learned that a key pillar to establishing successful self-managing teams is through structured collaboration. At the best of times, collaboration has allowed us to work towards purposeful initiatives, common goals and allowed us to have several projects underway simultaneously, with varied levels of involvement from different team members. Sound like utopia?

Through our discovery processes and learning through generic painpoints, we understood that what we needed was collaboration that allows for a level of transparency that speeds us up and minimizes meeting time, double work or confusion.

The anchor platform we use for this structured collaboration? A Demo Hour

What is a Demo hour?

A Demo hour is a platform for team members to share their wins, commitments and blockers within the pieces of work/projects that they are working on. In turn they receive immediate feedback from the rest of their colleagues via a live feedback form.

Regardless of the size of the organisation, the entire team is able to get a window into the strategic state of another team without the need for hours of meetings upon meetings.

The goal of a Demo hour?

Transparency, Accountability and Consistency across the business.

It serves as an internal communications tool to track team progress and gives each team the opportunity to track their own advancement with data and metrics.

Speed of decision making is encouraged. The ultimate goal is that a Demo hour supports a ‘sprint approach’ throughout the organization where a ‘team of teams’ is the principle.

Demo hour isn’t just about knowledge sharing. The purpose is to use the learnings to improve your performance, then present current progress and blockers. This allows the rest of the business to have insight into these learnings and collaborate.

So, where to start?

For us as a team we’ve learned that the most effective way to begin is to start by making your teams’ goals clear. As we’ve said, you can’t collaborate without structure, so we’ve created a demo hour framework for ourselves and our clients that helps us all get the most out of an hour together, every sprint.

The questions we ask in a Demo hour?

  1. We ask ourselves, what do our clients say? This question keeps the focus on client experience and feedback. It evokes the value of story-telling by bringing real client interactions to life and also allows everyone in the team to have a voice.

2. What does the data say? It is easy to be swamped by data or vanity metrics that miss the point. We focus on the key metrics. The purpose is to assist your teams to be looking at the top 3 data metrics that show performance/improvement or progress on the goals of the team.

3. What did we do? This question ties into the specific goals, celebrations and wins that the team has experienced. It also helps shine light on the key blockers that the team needs to work together on to remove. This helps to bring the teams’ thoughts together in their approach to solving any problems or blockers.

“Two heads are better than one, not because either of them is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.” — CS Lewis

Essentially through asking the questions above regularly, we’re creating what we call a feedback loop. As The Ready would say: “If you’re looping you’re learning”

(https://www.linkedin.com/learning/aaron-dignan-on-transformational-change/example-of-looping)

As we’ve navigated through the uncertainty of the last year not only for ourselves but with our clients too, we’ve celebrated massive wins because our platforms for collaboration or Demo hours are so easily translated into a virtual space.

We’ve been able to ensure that we’re all still moving towards our goals rapidly and that communication and decision making is clear and transparent, irrespective of whether the team is working together in a shared space or remotely.

We’ve created a list of Demo hour “How-to’s” to get you started and then some “Demo hour best practices” once you’re on your way:

Demo hour How-To’s:

  • Invite potential and/or existing stakeholders.
  • Before or after Demo Hour, teams meet to do a retrospective and planning session.
  • In the Demo Hour each team share ideas/prototypes/key insights in an overview and strategic fashion. (or any other work the team needs feedback on)
  • A standardized Demo Hour template invites a clear overview of the team’s work, which can be shared strategically. (see the suggested questions above)
  • Teams need to be transparent and open to feedback.
  • Project Leads are accountable for utilizing the feedback that is generated.

Demo hour best practices:

  • Don’t spend too much time preparing your materials. Share your existing work authentically and in real-time.
  • Set expectations on what you’re sharing: explain at what stage you are at and provide context for your next steps.
  • Tell a story. Build your demo around real stakeholder engagement and insights- solve real problems. Show valuable work, not hard work.
  • Keep it short! Create a dedicated role for a team member to protect the team’s time and to make sure that the Demo Hour runs according to the time set out.
  • Repeat, repeat, improve!

By no means is this utopia, it’s a very structured format that supports an agile rhythm, which inevitably allows collaboration to live with minimized anarchy.

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The future of work is here. We work with organisations to change and shape a new and better way of working.

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