It’s not that we are smarter or more creative. It’s not because we like each other more. It’s because we’ve found a new way to work.
We get more work done, much better than your team, in much less time, because we use Acrobat.com.
And from a personal standpoint, by working this way I get fewer emails and spend less time in meetings, yet I get more done, have more time to think, and enjoy my work and my co-workers more. How does that sound to you?
Let me give you a real world example of how this happens.
Last month we had to create a positioning document, usually about 12-15 sentences that describe what our business is all about, with an eye on the coming year. This is a critical business document for a professional marketing organization. Who are our customers? How are we differentiated from the competition? What position do we want to establish in the market?
There were 10 people involved in the document from 3 cities across the United States, with people working from home and the office, with morning people and night owls. Some marketers, some public relations, some product people. Some senior executives, some individual contributors, all busy.
And we got it done extremely well. We got participation from and alignment across the team. In two weeks. All that with only 30 total emails (3 messages sent to 10 people), zero meetings, and zero email attachments. Thirty emails, zero meetings, zero attachments. Thirty-zero-zero. Great result. Done.
Sure, there were side conversations, some IM exchanges and phone calls here and there. But all the work was done in Buzzword, people working when they had time to think, with everyone having access to the same version and the same commentary, the whole time always on the same page.
How would this process work in a ‘normal’ organization?
First, there would be a meeting with 7 people who haven’t thought about the problem very deeply. Once you find a time slot when everyone is free, of course. And in the course of that meeting you would realize that you forgot to include 2 people, and someone else couldn’t make it. At least 3 other meetings like this would ensue over the course of two weeks, with more time wasted getting people up to speed and listening to people argue about something they could just work out on their own.
Looking at our final document in Buzzword‘s history feature, there were about 30 versions of the document in 2 weeks. So that is 30 versions times 10 people equals 300 emails with 300 copies of the document that would have been emailed around as attachments stuffed into overfull inboxes.
Also looking at the document, there were about 50 substantive comments, many of which were in response to other comments. So 50 comments times 10 people equals 500 emails that people would have sent around, assuming they had bothered to try to follow the threads of the discussion.
So 800 emails, 300 email attachments, at least 4 frustrating meetings. Eight hundred, three hundred, four versus 30-0-0. Plus a good result and an aligned team. Who wins? We do.
To be clear, this is a team of people who are building Acrobat.com and have been using the service together intensely for at least six months. In other words, it is a team of people who are both motivated and trained. But the results, clearly, speak for themselves.
This story also makes it clear to me that at the same time we are building Acrobat.com for you, we need to do more to help explain how to use the service to make your team more competitive, so you can innovate more, attract better people, make more money, and beat the competition.
So here is lesson #1. Next time you schedule a meeting where you are ‘trying to get alignment,’ do these 10 steps:
1) cancel the meeting…really, cancel it
2) spend a little time gathering your thoughts, write up a rough draft of your proposal in Buzzword, and share it with the other people who need to have input
3) remind people to review and comment on the document when you see or talk to them in person…you’ll have time for this because you just canceled a meeting, remember?
4) check in on the document after a day, and if you don’t understand or disagree with a comment, then call the person or stop by to talk in person…you’ll have fewer emails, so plenty of time for this sort of ‘nicety’
5) consolidate the comments and inputs into the document and add your own brief comments so others can understand what you did
6) once you have revised the document, send an email asking people to review it again and comment on the revised draft as needed…then maybe go for a short walk to clear your head
7) if you really must have a meeting to get agreement on a particularly contentious area, do it now, but only invite the opposing parties, and use video conferencing via ConnectNow if you aren’t in the same room, to make it a little more personal
8) check in again to make sure everyone has looked at the document by mousing over the collaborator bar on the bottom of the document, then remind any stragglers to get on it
9) consolidate comments one last time
10) ask everyone to check the final document (again, email is ok for the reminder , and declare it done
Now that the secret is out, maybe you have a fighting chance against us…but then again, I haven’t told you how to make presentations better and faster, so our team can still beat your team…
We’ll keep working hard to help you get more work done, more quickly, and with better results. Let us know what you think we’re missing on ideas.acrobat.com. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @erikdlarson. Or check out my previous blog postings, if you’re interested.
And yes, I’ll share that positioning document with y’all. Soon. Just not quite yet. We’re a competitive team, after all.