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Remote collaboration

« We depend on a high level of dialogue and trust. For us, this is a major component of team-building.»

Interview with Stéphane Crampel, Vice-President IS/IT Europe of Camfil

You did not wait for Covid 19 and the lockdown before starting to work on improving the coordination of teamwork and remote collaboration. Why did you already choose to tackle this issue a year ago?

Events outside the company, such as transport strikes or a health crisis, require responsiveness. There are also intrinsic changes that require deep thinking into the changes that need to be made. This is valid in terms of methods, tools and organization.

Starting in 2019, I  took over a third team. Our headcount increased from 15 people on 3 sites (la Garenne-Colombes, Compiègne and Hamburg ) to 30 people and one more site in Stockholm.

Until last year, we used to work together with 15 people on 3 sites. We had to change our methods to address the increase in staff headcount. At the same time, we adopted a new matrix organization on a European scale with an office manager on every site. I had to coordinate these teams while thinking about a global organization with strong local roots.

My challenge for 2019 was to create dynamics and ties between these teams. The Collaboration Dynamics training by Judy Rees with BIRDS Conseil about how to coordinate teamwork and remote collaboration enabled all of this, as well as enhancing the habits that we had already acquired in this area.

Which habits had you already included in your way of operating to cultivate good remote collaboration?

For several years, we had already been speaking to each other 2 to 3 times a week via Skype. In 2016, we set up daily stand-ups, which were meetings that lasted around 15 minutes, to have a common discussion forum.

What is the principle? Everyone talks about what they did, about their difficulties and their goals for the coming day. No problem can be solved in a meeting but everyone knows that they can easily contact a member of the team through this forum and get assistance about an issue if they need it.

This meeting between three countries every morning became an important ritual to help us start the day. It enabled us to resynchronise the teams after a night at home. This organisation worked well with 15 people on 3 sites until last year. We changed our methods to address the increase in staff headcount, with the use of a dashboard displaying Help Desk data (open incidents, seriousness, compliance with levels of service, etc.), itemising the health of the company’s information system on a day-to-day basis.

It became a meeting that everyone highly values. It makes it possible to channel the efforts of the day. 15 minutes is fairly short compared to the workload of one day.

Only people who have other priorities can be absent. Out of the 30 people on the team, 20 to 25 people are present every day on average. It is THE daily meeting of the team.

Why did you want to take the Collaboration Dynamics training?

We wanted to go still further and in July 2019 we set up the Collaboration Dynamics training. This training enabled us to maximise the potential of our MS Teams collaboration tool, which replaced instant messaging as the main tool.

Today, there are very few meetings in which we don’t use video. It is a very important point that I insist on: members who are present on video are more involved and interact more. The function of the break-out sessions (workshops of groups outside the main meeting), which were presented with the BIRDS training and which are available on Zoom, also enables the fostering of discussions. This is not yet present in Teams but we are really waiting for it!

Apart from implementing a videoconferencing and instant messaging tool, how did this training enable you to improve your remote collaboration?

The Collaboration Dynamics Training enabled us to clarify our intentions, sharpen our listening and move towards more frequent but shorter meetings, which are more efficient. 

Above all, it set up a good impetus for discussion. We previously interacted with the tool to discuss projects or structured issues.

Now we can have unstructured discussions when we feel that a person is receptive. This has eliminated the formality of meetings and lets people speak openly. We are in a real discussion. We are fully collaborating.

This training also enabled us to feel close to each other very quickly, with a high level of dialogue and trust. For us, this is a major aspect of teambuilding and a way of finally reaching the goal of coordinating and aligning the teams in an international matrix organisation.

What did this change for you in the Covid 19 lockdown period?

I think that this gave our teams a real head start. I hope that we will roll this out quickly all over the Group. We are really very international in our way of working. This better remote collaboration enables us to better prepare for physical interactions. It does not replace them but supplements them very efficiently.

> Coordinating your teamwork and remote collaboration to get through the lockdown more smoothly: discover our Collaboration Dynamics training

> Strengthen trust remotely: Sign up for our next interactive webinar in English 

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