Strategy and tools for remote communication
- Know the categories of collaborative tools
- Build your collaborative space and your facilitation strategy
Sharing information with one's team, communicating with a client (i.e. exchanging to build a shared understanding), collaborating with one's colleagues (doing with), conducting a one-to-one interview or facilitating a problem-solving meeting are just a few examples of the multiple processes that exist between one individual and another, a manager and his team, a manager and his peers.
When one can go to one's office and travel, one takes care to choose a place and a time appropriate to the type of process: who would have the idea of conducting a one-to-one interview in the company restaurant, or a problem-solving meeting in the lobby?
However, at a distance, we act as if it were enough to replace face-to-face communication with emails or videoconference meetings without asking ourselves whether the tools are appropriate for the purpose (informing, collaborating, solving a problem), and the impact of the lack of a common and local context on the understanding of the message.
This tool-sheet provides the keys to choosing collaborative tools and, more broadly, building a virtual collaborative space over time.
1. How to choose a tool?
Choosing a tool is often dictated by whether you have time or a place in common, or simply whether it is available.
- Depending on time and place
- Depending on the use
The more complex, ambiguous and highly personal the subjects to be discussed or collaborated on, the more important it is to use a tool that allows direct and rapid interaction, to vary the registers of expression (natural, formal, abstract, personal, emotional) and to favour psychological proximity.
It is up to you to ask yourself the questions:
- Is it a complex subject? Do we need precise, organised, varied information? An asynchronous tool that includes video, images and text will be more suitable than sending a text message.
- Is it important to have a personal, direct and fast connection with my interlocutor? Then a synchronous tool such as the telephone will be more appropriate than an email.
- Do you need to work together on complex issues at the same time? Then a collaborative tool that allows you to write simultaneously in real time is necessary.
It is up to you to make your mix of tools, because sometimes you will need several to create the conditions at a distance that we know how to do when we share the same place at the same time.
2. Which tool to choose?
Here is a table that will help you in your choice:
Messagerie vocale. Capsule vidéo (vimeo, whasapp)
Partage d’une information ou d’une instruction. Illustration, explication du travail. Synthèse des points clés d’une réunion pour les partager avec les absents ou les archiver.
Téléphone, Audio conférence (teams, zoom)
Échanges personnels, construction de relations, soutien Sujets conflictuels ou délicats.
Webinaire (webex, gotowebinar)
Réunions d’information, transmettre des savoirs
Chat (whatapp, telegram)
Questions urgentes, information, esprit d’équipe
Video-conférence (zoom, google hangout, webex)
Information, décision, résolution de problèmes (avec tableau blanc, écran partagés), rétrospectives d’équipe, discussions collectives, formation, workshop
Courriel (gmail, orange...)
Partage des informations à grande échelle, communication formelle hors et dans l’entreprise
Écriture collaborative (mural, google docs)
Création de documents communs, partage de savoirs
Espace documentaire partagé (padlet, dropbox)
Maitrise de la version officielle des documents, bibliothèque partagée, référentiel de pratiques et de normes
Espace collaboratif (slack, teams)
Informations, discussions, créativité, décision collective, collaboration, capitalisation, soutien
Canal thématique (slack, teams, wechat)
Urgences, demandes d’aide, information, soutien à l’esprit d’équipe, capitalisation et archivage
Gestion des taches (trello, asana, mura)
Pilotage, priorisation, gestion de projet, de la performance, mise en visibilité des taches
Outil de sondage (Klaxoon, mentimeter)
Discussion interactive, formation, rétrospectives d’équipe, partage des apprentissages
NB: Make sure that your colleagues or team are able to use the tools and their different functions, as everyone has their own preferences and even uses. And agree on common rules of use to find ways of communicating together, enough to share the necessary information, develop and maintain good relationships and not too much to avoid information overload and distraction.
3. Which animation strategy and mix of tools?
As a team manager, network leader or community facilitator, it is a question of recreating a sense of collective distance by establishing rhythms and rituals via the tools to :
- Make the leader and the team/network visible to themselves
- Reaffirm the links between members
Thus, the manager can organise over a period of 6 to 12 months the highlights of his or her team: key moments linked to the activity, convivial moments, regular exchanges with everyone, with or without a precise agenda.
Structuring regular links using a mix of tools (email, audio-conference, video-conference, etc.) and setting up random notifications (proposed by slack, for example) makes it possible to recreate, in part, what happens in a co-located team: formal and informal, organised and incidental exchanges that serve greater cohesion and efficiency.
It is also possible to structure the management of customer, supplier or partner relations, as well as project processes (mix of tools for launching a project, managing steering meetings, etc.) or crisis situations (who is responsible? what tool should be used? escalation of communications). And this approach also applies to the organisation of a remote meeting.
PUT INTO PRACTICE
1. Animation plan
The following table is used to construct a facilitation plan
Rythme et durée
Headings to be completed:
- Targets: recipients
- Objectives: use
- Rhythm and duration: frequency (weekly, monthly, half-yearly, yearly ....) and duration (1h, ½ day, 1 day...)
- Tool: telephone, e-mail, video conference, audio conference....(there may be several)
- Medium and access: formalisation mode (email, one-page pdf document, recorded video, printed whiteboard...) and access mode to the medium (shared space, email...)
2. Virtual circle / Virtual clock
The virtual circle consists of putting the photo of the participants in a virtual meeting on a file, in order to increase psychological proximity (useful in cases where the telecommunication networks do not allow the use of video). It also makes it possible to manage the order in which people speak, which is particularly useful if you, as the meeting leader, want to be sure that everyone has spoken.
3. Good practice
E-mail / email
- Check your email every day and reply to urgent emails within 24 hours - In case of absence or limited access, leave a message informing your interlocutors of your unavailability
- A copy of a message is for information only and does not require a reply
- Be careful about the choice of words used, as certain formulations can be perceived negatively
- In case of strong emotional pressure, keep the message in the draft folder and go over it again before sending it
- An email is often not suitable for resolving personal issues, exchanging sensitive information or avoiding face-to-face contact
- The title of the email should be clear on the subject and if applicable the deadline
- The following words should be used in the title to help the recipient manage their priorities: For info / for action / for info URGENT / for action URGENT...
- Reply to all" should only be used if everyone needs your information. Attachments in this type of reply should be deleted.
- Review the list of emails regularly to make sure they are processed and filed or deleted.
- Spell check is always a good help
- A meeting should be scheduled via the appropriate calendar tool and not by email - Clarify how you want to use email.
Audio / video conferencing
- Facilitator should arrive early to set up the virtual meeting, liaise with participants, make sure everyone knows how to use the tool (if necessary, remind them how to use the functions used) and provide a back-up in case of problems
- Propose a code of conduct and describe the planned agenda
- Suggest that participants announce their presence at the beginning of the meeting. The inclusion sequence is just as important as in a face-to-face meeting
- Introduce yourself when speaking (especially in audio)
- Depending on the sequence of a video conference, the use of sub-groups can be considered, as well as exchanging in audio only (video can be distracting)
- Default to "mute"; however, in small groups and if there is no ambient noise, leaving the microphone open may allow for greater spontaneity of expression
- Do not engage in another local discussion (in case several participants connect to the meeting from the same location)
- In case of difficulty (hearing, seeing...), inform the facilitator
- Allow a recovery time of about 15 minutes between audio/video meetings
- Limit audio/video meeting sequences to 1.5 to 2 hours
- Allow for breaks of 5 to 10 minutes for sequences < 2 hours, 20 to 30 minutes for sequences of 2 to 3.5 hours
- The longer the meetings, the more they need to be prepared in terms of content, methodology and technical details, and the more they need to be varied. In general, it is recommended not to exceed half a day.