Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Joint decision-making about tool use in teams

Nancy White has a blogpost called Technology Stewardship and Unexpected Uses that resonates with what I'm working on. I'm consulting various people in organisations about the choice for online tools and how to introduce them for use by teams, groups or networks. What I noticed is that quite a lot of them would like to choose a tool, get up to speed with it themselves and then train others. However, in this networked world, it is my belief that we can be more participatory than that, with more chances of success.

Together with Sibrenne Wagenaar I wrote a Dutch article called "So you wanna be a virtual team?" - have to admit here that the Dutch are a little bit crazy giving an English title but the rest is really in Dutch- . In the article we try to explicitize our own way of working. We state that, amongst other things, it is good to:
  • Start with an exchange of experiences with tools for collaboration; start with familiarity
  • Choose a starting toolset together with the team
  • Stimulate an experimental culture within the team
  • You can introduce new tools but don't overdo it
  • Monitor individual feelings of ease and unease
It's hard to find the balance though between deciding for a group and trying to facilitate a participatory decision making process because for some tools may be new. It's a bit of an art to know when to lead and when to use knowledge and experiences within the group.

Nancy White has some useful additions on how to introduce technology:
It is about a dynamic evolution of practices and applications of the technology, not about the installation or the simple availability of the tool. So here are some practice hints.
  • Role model your experience and practices with tools, but don’t present them as the only options.
  • Watch for experimentation and amplify new, useful practices. Better yet, encourage community members to talk about and share their practices.
  • When members ask for tool adjustments based on their experimentation, work hard to accommodate rather than block innovation. This may mean going to bat with “higher-ups” to gain permission, or to allow the experimentation to fly “under the radar” until you can make a case for the value of the changes.
  • Encourage the fringies - the people who push the limits of a tool. Make them allies rather than enemies. Their pushing of your buttons may also create the innovation that you need to foster wider adoption.
In short develop shared leadership with regards to all these decisions. Though it may seem you know the best use of a tool, it's worthwhile to foster joint decision-making and let the routines within the team evolve organically within the team.

I'm curently reading Schein's organisational culture and leadership again, hope to draw some lessons from his insights too.

No comments: