Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Channeling Information and collaboration - is admirable

We are living in a world of information flood. Reducing information overload on team members is very close to me as I strongly believe that at bottom level someone should focus and work on one task at a time. I can ask a developer to code two programs but he will code one at a time, focusing on one and then taking up another. Similarly if I ask someone to analyze item 1, I cannot assume he can analyze item 2 at the same time and share the results simultaneously.

Email is dominating my life. Every 5 mins my outlook refreshes itself and I get emails sent to me or to many distribution lists which I am part of. I don’t realize it is costing me a lot of time and is switching my focus away from what I am working on.

I am proponent of the idea that as middle level managers in delivery teams we should channel the information. I may gather 10 tasks from different teams or groups and want to assign it to my team. I can gather all infomation and send it to them as a summary email. With regards to onsite-offshore communication, peer level communication should happen. Team level meetings can happen for sharing extra information with all. Including everyone instead of peers alone in all emails may cause information flood.

Few may argue on information loss because of filtering and I agree with their viewpoint. Classic example of information loss is requirement gathering which is notorious for losing client’s requirements in a product. So the concept promotes that everyone in the team should have access to all information. This way one person’s judgment alone is not responsible for propagating information to the next level and it at least provides the option that someone will find that team is taking wrong direction.

To achieve a balance between information flooding and information loss we all need to think creatively and fine some solution using current generation technology. Technological solution calls for collaborative tools. We should start thinking beyond emails. Collaborative team communication tools should be customized and made primary mode of communication. Assigning or addressing content to a particular person should be allowed on this tool. The tool can add acknowledgment once the individual reads the content. Project level collaborative tools will have all communication between all team members on public domain. I as an individual can focus on content assigned to me and if I have time I can read other items. I can access additional information if I feel I don’t have everything with me and that information should be on collaborative tool. This way project information can remain in project teams’ domain as far as possible.

Someone may suggest that team collaboration can be achieved by sharing all team emails with each member. Team members can ignore email if it’s not addressed to them. Individual developers are maybe smart to create and apply filters to move emails to another place when not addressed to them. Although there are gaps in using filtering process but for arguments’ sake lets say individuals do this. At each new email notification most people want to see if it’s not addressed to them. It breaks the thought process they may be into before getting distracted.

In information age “Effects of interruption” is a hot topic of research. The negative effect of an interruption on productivity is much more than the time spent handling the interruption. Nielsen J notes: “… even a one minute interruption can easily cost a knowledge worker 10 to 15 minutes of lost productivity due to the time needed to reestablish mental context and re-enter the flow state.” Picard concurs, “We take a major productivity hits with each interruption.”

I admire channeling of information and keeping it at common place for everyone to read.

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