Future of work trends: Working Out Loud



In what is already the 8th blog in his internal communications and digital collaboration trends blog series, our associate partner Rik works out loud.


The world of WOL

In my previous blogs, I stressed the importance of agreeing on new ways of working that enable alignment, engagement, and progress in an increasingly hybrid and digital world. A very effective method to achieve that is Working Out Loud (WOL). This is the sharing of updates on work done or work that needs doing.


With WOL, others can give input right away and help the team make better, faster decisions. It is not just about sharing, but also about involving others in your work. This used to happen by looking over people’s shoulders or picking up on a conversation at the office. Now, you can achieve the same on a digital collaboration platform, such as Teams, Yammer, or Workplace.


The CC calamity

I hear some of you thinking: why not group email? Granted, that is also asynchronous digital communication. But clarity and transparency of content, chronology, and participants are utterly lacking. This may sound familiar: you experience a daily deluge of cc’all emails, but a few participants are (deliberately) missing from certain replies, leading to shadowy side conversations. Unbeknownst to the group, some participants forward the emails to others, who then join the conversation out of left field.


Before you know it, all kinds of parallel dialogues are going on and a multitude of document versions are flying around. This way it may well take dozens of mails to come to a solution or a decision, as this video illustrates hilariously. No wonder we quit email with friends and family as soon as Facebook and WhatsApp came up.


WOL solves these problems because the whole conversation happens in the open. You can add new participants transparently, direct questions to individuals with @-mentions, and work together on one document, stored online.


Don’t go AWOL

For this to work well, you should agree on some basic rules:

  • Keep all documents in one central place, where everyone can access and work on them. Don’t keep files locally.

  • Share everything, also your work in progress. Only then can others give timely input.

  • All WOL on the same platform. That sounds obvious, but it also means no more internal e-mailing and work-related WhatsApping.

Make these agreements within teams, but also for the organisation as a whole. In practice, we often see a split between team and more social communication. Our clients HEINEKEN and Nestlé use Teams and Workplace; Philips and ING do it on Yammer and Teams. Keep the number of different platforms to a minimum and encourage open communication. That way you boost cross-silo knowledge sharing.


Conclusion

Working Out Loud is a very effective way to collaborate in an increasingly hybrid and digital work environment. Make good agreements, starting with switching from internal email to a collaboration platform. Then design new ways of working – and stick to them!


In the next blog, I will zoom in on a specific way to WOL: Working In the Narrative.

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