Working together when we're not together

In classical theater, the plot is organized around 3 unities: time, place and action.

With the coronavirus, what becomes of the unity of place? An insurance company whose it teams are spread out across two sites prohibits them from moving from one place to another even though they are involved on the same project. A global software company forbids all travel and the meetings of more than ten people. Therefore we have to find new ways of working together, without being physically together.

We, at Operae Partners have a few years of practice and experience obtained by coaching distributed teams: IT support split between France and Morocco, project management located on three separate sites, creation of IT environments with technical steps spread between France, Portugal and India. Indeed, lean management involves sharing the understanding of the situation between all stakeholders, finding improvements to problems set visible at one point in the process but whose origin goes way back before, etc. Here are some methods we use:

1. Preparation is essential!

We agree on the unity of time (2:00 p.m. Paris time) and the unity of action (to carry out the daily update, to work on a specific problem solving) and on the support (use the Trello flow, rely on the macroplan of the obeya, prepare the A3).

The support can be digital or a good photo sent by email. Both can do the job.

We also agree on the practical aspects of participation: how the speaking moments will be distributed, who is the moderator of the session, how to take part in the discussion.

2. Hold the meeting

The tools we have will make the difference. We have tested many and kept some.

Essential : the Bluetooth speaker.

It does not cost much (50 to 100 euros) and it provides so much comfort! The sound becomes clear, everyone can hear and be heard.

In addition, the speaker is mobile. Whether the meeting takes place in a team, in front of a visual management, around a meeting table, the bluetooth speaker can be used there.

Almost essential : the camera.

The smartphone camera does the job very well. Taking a photo of a detail and distributing it at once makes it much easier for everyone to share the subject.

It slows down the discussion a bit, but at least everyone can see what it is.

Mixed results – the webcam

Yes, it is very useful but either it is fixed and it is frustrating when everyone moves to the left; either it is mobile, carried by a person, and there, the relationship becomes a bit delicate: “would you like to get closer to this picture?” turn right ? no, the other right? etc… ” There is something to annoy both parts of the action.

We didn’t try the panoramic webcam.

The clever : the graphic tablet and the stylus

As soon as you share a screen, the stylus allows you to surround, annotate, cross out, draw, etc. while sharing the gesture and image in real time.

Much more effective than having to stop to bring everyone back to the place of the discussion (“do you see the numbers 14, 21 and 42? Look at the blue post its”) and much more responsive than the camera.

“Wall-E” inspiration

If we cannot physically participate in the meeting, can a robot replace us?

We tested it, with “Double”, a self-driving, two-wheeled videoconferencing robot. Thanks to a small webcam, your face appears on the iPad screen where the meeting takes place. With a little dexterity, you use your keyboard as in a video game (no need to jump !!! ) here we go. Your “Double” will stare at the piece of visual management you are interested in, sit at the table with others if necessary, speak with your voice. The “Double” reports to you in real time what he hears and what he sees.

Do you find that eccentric? Edward Snowden, the NSA defector, used a “Double” robot to speak at a TED conference from his Russian exile.

Here is a use in a professional environment (at LinkedIn). The price: $ 3,999. More expensive than in my memories.

Minority report” option

Do you dream of screens that display a thousand and one pieces of information, which you can manipulate with your fingers and which are fully interactive? Well, so do we!

So we looked for that ideal solution for a long time, because real interactivity in real time, with 20 people, is difficult. And we found Ubikey at Vivatech. A very large interactive whiteboard (5,000 euros, to buy from any vendor you want), a server, an internet connection and the Ubikey license. You can connect to it with your fingers, a smartphone or a PC and everyone can see the common topic, can post a topic, a photo, a screenshot, move an object, create links, draw …

Info and demo here:

If you work on 2 sites, you should ideally invest in 2 screens.

We are equipped with a screen in Paris and one in Lille and we have carried out complex projects via Ubikey without having to be directive, top down or bureaucratic. Very useful! Now we use it even when we are all located on the same site. This gives our team meetings a slightly “scrum” atmosphere with those who reach out to the blackboard directly and neighborhood coffeshop for those who prefer to send their information via their smartphone.

Any other ideas to share?

Written by Marie-Pia Ignace
Translation by Frédéric Buono

Spin off from the Compiègne University of Technology, Ubikey designed a software solution for touch screens incorporating the principles of visual management and allowing a team to work together on a fully digitized project, in person or remotely

The solution makes communication easier and more fluid in all work contexts: flex office, telework or projects carried out by teams spread across the world. The people involved in the project have access to the same information at the same time and simultaneous work is fluid.

Based on the two founding principles of visual management (a very readable presentation and the involvement of the teams), Ubikey offers the only multi-user, multi-site software fully adapted to the large touch screens available on the market.

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