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Your Story: Throwing new tools at a communication problem?

I'm working on a (likely non-43 Folders) piece about a topic that seems to keep coming up whenever I talk with people about how their team plans, collaborates, and generally communicates with one another. I'd love to hear from you in comments if you have a contribution to make.

What’s your story?

Do you have a story about a time when your team or company tried to solve a human communication problem by adding a new tool? In your estimation, how did things turn out?


Yours doesn't need to be a horror story to be included here -- there are certainly ample examples in which a thorny problem disappeared by introducing a bit of high (or low) technology to the mix.

But, the anecdotes I hear from worker bees often focus on the frustration they felt when a wiki, a new CMS, a mailing list, or some other tool was introduced into an ecosystem that was suffering from a more fundamental communication problem. A lot of people tell me that this makes matters much worse all around, often amplifying the complexity of the original problem, in addition to piling on burnt cycles that were committed on getting everyone up to speed on the new "silver bullet."

If you have a minute over the next week or so, please share your story here. Redact details that you think need redacting, but please consider telling me how things went for you and your group. And, if you feel like a whole or partial solution to the core problem ever did come along, that would be great to know, as well. Already documented this someplace else? Know of someone else who did? Links to relevant stories are also greatly appreciated.

If things pan out, I may be contacting a few of you offline for more details, and conceivably, an interview or two. Thanks in advance.

bigphaty's picture

IMHO, You can't use technology to fix a management problem.

It's important to make sure you're working on the right problem. I don't think you can use technology to fix a management problem.

I've seen companies try to do this quite often. Technology can sometimes limit users' options, effectively forcing them to do what you want. This can limit the risk assumed by the company; but unfortunately that's as far as some companies go. For instance, there's a product called Field2Base which will transmit a time/date stamped digital photo. So instead of punching a clock, you get your picture taken when you show up and when you leave. For companies that use a lot of temp labor, this is a great idea. But if you're doing it because your folks show up late all the time, it's only a band-aid. Sure, they're there, but that doesn't mean they are working. The supervisor may have fixed the symptom, but he didn't necessarily change their attitudes.

Email is another example. By most accounts, email is a great invention. But how many times have you had someone use it to CTA? "I sent you the email, and you never responded..." Nevermind the fact that you were out of the office at a meeting, and hadn't been able to check email. Again, didn't fix the attitude.

We implemented a CRM system at work, and overall, it has achieved many of its intended goals. Having all customer data in one place is important. Having each person literally working "on the same page" has avoided a lot of mistakes. It was a good decision, and if we had to do it again, I'm sure we would. Having said that... do the Business Development folks communicate better with the Professional Services folks (and vice-versa)? Not really. In fact, rather than simply walking across the room and having a conversation, or just picking up the phone and giving someone a heads up, the information gets buried in the system.

I could go on and on with examples. It sounds like many of the posts here are different versions on the same theme. Just my $.02 worth. Great thread.




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