Simon Terry

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Solving Work Problems Out Loud & Outside

Working out loud can sometimes seem quite abstract. The benefits can seem a little obscure. Here’s a little story of how purposefully sharing your work in progress can create a great experience that makes work easier and more effective.

A Story of Working Out Loud Outside

I interact a lot with the Customer Success Team for Microsoft Office. We are both trying to help clients to find the best ways to implement Office capability. These situations can vary from client to client because each one has a different strategy, a different culture and a different plan. There’s always something new to learn and a new problem to solve.

Today as I travelled to work, I got an external Yammer post from Avi Sujeeth, a Microsoft Customer Success Manager in the US. I’ve known Avi for a while through online interactions only.  Avi was in discussion with some of his colleagues around an issue about organisational structures for IT teams that he needed to solve for a client. Avi had previously seen a post I had written on the same topic in the Microsoft Tech Community.

By @mentioning me into that thread in Microsoft’s Yammer Community, I was able to join into that thread of conversation between the Microsoft team from around the world. The thread appeared as a notification in my inbox in my ChangeAgentsWorldwide Yammer. I answered the question to the best of my abilities.  Over the next 30 minutes, in and around other tasks I was doing, we had a quick back and forth to clarify some issues.  I went on with my day in Melbourne.

Breaking Down the Benefits

When I next checked Yammer, I saw a new notification of a follow-up message in the thread from Avi pointing out the power of what just happened.  Included in that post was the following quote (shared with permission)

I had no idea where this conversation was going to go. I don’t have Simon’s email. I did it all in about 30 minutes because of async communication. Work Out Loud rules.

There’s little reason to believe that I could have contributed to solving a problem for Avi if he hadn’t his work in progress, based on a mutual understanding from a history of sharing our work. I don’t have Avi’s email. I didn’t know he was based in Texas until I looked up his LinkedIn profile to include it above. I don’t have a clue what he is doing other than what he shared with me. He was on a deadline that I didn’t discover until the last post. The ease and the curiosity with which Avi could share that challenge with me made it incredibly easy for me to quickly understand the issue and reply to the best of my ability. The whole interaction took less than 10 minutes of my time.

Importantly, Avi wasn’t sure what he might get from his question to me. Avi took a risk putting the message out there. I could have been in a workshop or on a plane. I might not have had anything of value to say (I’m still not sure that I did). There’s some comfort that he probably got better answers to his question to me from his peers while I took my time responding. Having shared a work challenge out loud his colleagues could all jump in to the conversation too.

Would Avi have got the same answer asking me publicly or privately on Twitter or Linkedin? Maybe, but then he may not have got the participation of his colleagues and I wouldn’t have had the same sense of engaging in a team response to a problem. Being part of a purposeful team is highly engaging, even if it is just a single thread. Because this was one thread with many other people from organisation I know well, I knew I could trust the team and I felt safe to share my thoughts and get feedback – the dynamics of responding were better and a better solution resulted.

Working out loud is a powerful tool for solving work problems because when people share work in progress purposefully with relevant communities. Examples like these are what we need to achieve to move the conversation in collaboration from sharing to solving work problems. Once people work out loud consistently organisations and individuals see benefits quickly further driving collaboration internally and externally.

PS:A short comment on external collaboration features:

Many organisations turn off external messaging and external groups in Yammer because they don’t understand the experience or have fears of security or data sharing breaches. This example of an agile and fluid form of external collaboration is a what is lost in that decision. Avi could have got my email from a colleague and emailed me but it would have been the same information, just slower and less engaging. More and more organisations need to work not just across silos, but across organisational boundaries in rapid collaborative teams.


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