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Who's driving?

You can’t plot a course and then give everyone a steering wheel, or just give everyone their own map whether they know how to read it or not.

Seamus Byrne
Seamus Byrne
5 min read
Who's driving?

Digital collaboration tools are part of our lives more than ever before. No going back. No take backsies. For richer, for poorer.

Overall, it’s a good thing. But I have absolutely no doubt there’s still a lot of people, a lot of organisations, a lot of schools… a lot of places of all sorts… where they’re wondering why this tool was supposed to solve their problem and they’re not sure why.

All because no one was actually put in charge of researching best practice and examples and templates and processes to make that tool work at its best.

It’s a serious problem in part because that work is invisible work. It is work that supports output, it is not an output in itself. And it’s the kind of planning work that gets shuffled down the priority list even though it could be the ‘boring’ task that means your implementation of Slack or Canvas or Miro or Trello or Jira delivers rapid value to dozens of members of your organisation.

This is tactical work. And I often think that tactical work is lost in today’s world. Strategy sits on a shiny pedestal. The big picture plans that point to the horizon. And then it leaps to process and action, where the tactics – the nitty gritty roadmap on how to get to where you’re going, and how to deal with the realities of workflow – are always something that just gets muddled out along the way.

This is work that needs someone to be put in charge. You can’t plot a course and then give everyone a steering wheel, or just give everyone their own map whether they know how to read it or not.

Yes, let that person poll the group, build a consensus on what is needed, and get feedback during implementation to ensure things are working for everyone. BUT that person must have authority to make decisions about execution and to iterate and adjust how the thing works to make it succeed.

Success is the goal. To make the new tool successful. To ensure it works well and that everyone is using it correctly. And that it has been implemented to a degree that ensures it is being used to greatest effect.

I wish more companies offered better onboarding processes for subscription collaboration tools. It should be bog standard to expect to be able to get on a call with a human who can help walk you through the features that will suit the needs of your organisation and which templates might be the best place to start.

But it isn’t.

I’ve been using Superhuman, an excellent email app that ties into Gmail and makes it far faster and more efficient to deal with email on a daily basis. It’s also US$30/month. But they quickly earned that money by hosting a live video chat with an onboarding expert who talked to me like a pseudo psychologist about how I use email, what my pain points are, how I file things, and then how to setup my Superhuman account to make it work best for me.

And then two weeks later I had a follow up call with the same human to check in on my experience, any hassles, and any features I might not have been using yet that could help me.

It was amazing because it was so abnormal and so helpful. And I have no doubt it helped to ensure I would stick with the service for a lot longer.

Many corporate tools cost far more, yet offer far less assistance to organisations to help them learn the ropes. And too many organisations just think that switching on that new tool and letting a team loose is a good way to get up and running.

I’m sure there’s a sad analogy here that applies to the wider world today. Too few people with clear responsibility for anything. Too many people who think that a grand plan is all you need because you’ll never be held accountable for the tactical execution.

Let’s not let that be the road forward. And let’s start by ensuring that inside our own homes and offices we’re giving someone the steering wheel to help make our collaboration tools pursue a best practice that ensures they make work better in deeply practical ways.

On Byteside

Lazy mode this week. Go check the podcasts and for all the latest. Geez, look at me. Self promoting like a marketing icon.

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