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As we all move to working remotely amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) challenges, we need to adapt to working together, apart. So as the migration to virtual meetings, workshops and conferences increases we need to navigate news ways of getting things done. While the temptation for many might be to search for more technology tools, it is entirely possible to run incredible collaboration experiences using the existing tools within your organisation. To have successful virtual meetings the focus shouldn’t be on the tools, it should be on how to best manage the tools for successful outcomes.

The real power is in combining these three simple elements:

1. Design and prepare the process

Rather than just setting a lengthy agenda for participants to follow, break down the conversation and the decisions that need to be made in advance. Prepare an agenda that focusses on the outcomes that need to be achieved.

To maintain the quality of the conversation and work output while collaborating virtually, focus on creating micro sprints. Consider how you could break down decisions into manageable parts. One approach could be to run a micro sprint informing participants of the work that has been done to build alignment, and then running a second ‘decision’ sprint to enable the participants to act. Through these two sprints we can align and act around decisions that participants can live with and fully support going forward.

When designing your sprints, think people, then tools and lastly process – swapping tools and process is the big paradigm shift here.

2. Facilitation

Don’t confuse a virtual workshop with a normal meeting. A dedicated person to help navigate the agenda can create a much more valuable outcome, including:

  • guiding the ways of working, setting clear rules of play and bringing voices into the conversation towards a more useful conclusion
  • tuning into the conversation and retaining engagement levels
  • enabling the group to move beyond a simple information exchange to aligning and acting on key decisions.

3. Collaboration tools

The new ways of working we are now faced with offer new possibilities over a traditional workshop. When using a VC approach, embrace the channel and do not be limited by it. Most of these tools will enable a group to present/share information that is no different from a traditional plenary session. Imagine multiple calls running in parallel – that creates breakout conversations that can report back to a wider group. Remember, the best tools in the world are the ones you already have.

Virtual collaboration through micro sprints

Micro sprints enable you and your teams to still use critical thinking and creativity to solve problems and make decisions while building ownership. It all comes down to the design and preparation of the session and a small facilitation team to execute. At a time when remote working is becoming the new normal, virtual collaboration is the key to staying engaged, motivated and resilient in the face of uncharted territory.