Everything from dealing with work, travel, family, sickness, knowing true friends and dealing with grief however it’s been one of the best years I’ve had so far.
I’ve had various opportunities arise which have stretched and challenged me in a good way too and for these, I’m thankful.
(For those who may be unaware, I have been working three days a week with Adopt & Embrace, a Microsoft partner helping organisations and their people adopt O365. I started as an Adoption Consultant but recently, have moved to the role of Community Manager responsible for building and supporting a community of people responsible for digital transformation in their business as part of the A&E Academy).
Adopt & Embrace have been helping business and their people with change and adoption of new technologies in their workplace and have been seeing the impact of these changing traditional behaviours were brought about by years of communication by email. Implementing O365 and also Microsoft Teams is a game changer in how people and teams communicate. It opens up the communication channels in business – and to some who like the control and the gate keeping – this is an entirely different way of communicating and collaborating.
Paul pitched the idea of writing a book to us on Microsoft Teams and sought out volunteers to help write it. Naturally I put up my hand.
It’s not a book about how to use the platform but more along the lines of how managers can create a team of people invested in business outcomes and then use MS Teams to make it a reality.
We have a framework that we have used with clients that steps them through looking at their team at a strategic level especially around how they need to perform, what problem they’re solving, how to bring in the right team members and how to evaluate and measure results. It’s more around the principles of working together to achieve business outcomes than the nitty gritty of how to use each and every function within Microsoft Teams.
Using the framework, you can focus on the creating the right structure of the team within Microsoft Teams and provide any additional training or coaching around the use and engagement principles. The value of this approach is that it removes the first questions people may have focussing on the platform – or their bias against using it – rather than the business problem, so it provides a focus away from initial questions such as:
“Why do we use gifs, I don’t like them because I think they’re unprofessional?
“I don’t like Facebook, isn’t Microsoft Teams like Facebook?”
“I’ve got a system set up in my emails folder structure I don’t want to lose” etc.
Although obstructions and challenges like this are important to address, you don’t need to address them at the planning stage – you can deal with them much later and this book shows you how to effectively approach Teams with your teams.
What I liked about writing this book this time around was that it was a bit “meta”.
Let me explain.
We were writing a book about Microsoft Teams all the while USING Microsoft Teams to plan the book, write the book, run our virtual meetings with our book coach and have all our conversations about our progress within Microsoft Teams. In effect, we were using the platform to do our entire book launch project within it. It was a great way to test out the use of Microsoft Teams (not that we haven’t been using it already because we use Microsoft Teams as the platform to do all our work at Adopt & Embrace).
Paul initiated the whole project and he did the bulk of the work, especially the writing but also the important editing, working with beta readers and getting it published. There’s a whole piece of work there that I haven’t been across but I know enough to understand that it would have been a massive chunk of which I only get to see the good bits – the published bit.
As I mentioned, when he pitched the idea to us and I immediately jumped onboard because I thought it would be a great opportunity to do something different. I did have a niggling doubt at the back of my head to try and squeeze not only my work, but also the work I was doing as Community Reporter for Microsoft Ignite. I had to look at my time and be strict on what I could block out to focus just on writing. Luckily, Paul mentioned that any book writing could be done during work hours because effectively it is considered work. That gave me the confidence then to look at my commitments in the weeks ahead and block out time.
The aim of the book was to have at least the Kindle version ready for when Microsoft Ignite was on in Orlando in Florida on 4 November and have it available as a discount offer to anyone at the conference.
How I Planned the Writing
I’m at my best writing flow in the mornings usually after a long walk.
I blocked out Wednesday mornings from 8am until midday to focus on writing. At midday on the same day, we would have our weekly book coach catch up. Our book coach would go through each of the chapters pointing out areas for improvement and consideration. This routine of writing then going to the coaching meeting helped me be ready for the next week of writing. It also pushed me to write because of the expectation that I had to then explain to her what I had done.
After the coaching session (all done as recorded meeting in Microsoft Teams), I would spend the next Monday or Tuesday mornings to quickly sketch out a framework for the next chapter of the book that I was writing and I used OneNote to do this.
Usually it was a dump of some references that triggered ideas, or some stories of teamwork in my own life that I would jot down. However, if I’m entirely honest with myself, the thinking time during my walks and my shower were pretty much where the bulk of the planning happened. I would just think of the high level structure and key points and then afterwards, it was just a matter of flashing up OneNote and tapping the notes and then waiting for Wednesday to come around before I could close myself off from the rest of the world, turn off notifications and write.
I also chose to write at different parts of the house because I have been noticing that my home office at times is distracting for me. Yes, it’s the place where I do all my work however, there are two computers, internet, cameras, a nice view out the window….distractions.
I decided to write at my kitchen table because the act of removing myself from my home office meant that my mind had switched focus from work to just writing. Another time, I had closed myself off in our DVD room (yes, just a tiny room filled with CDs and DVDs and where internet access signals are weak). It’s really no bigger than a broom cupboard but that day was the most writing I had done!
How The Team Communicated
Writing the book was as much an individual process as it was a teamwork process. I loved the blend of both (as you read in my previous post Reflections of Being a Community Reporter at Microsoft Ignite where I mention the same thing).
Admittedly, I had found a routine that worked for me and I guess I was lucky enough to have the time to commit to writing. The others were also juggling client work and other commitments so I believe it would have been much harder for them. Paul definitely had the hardest job to pull it altogether and get it ready to publish on Amazon so when I saw the progress while I was at Orlando at MS Ignite, I was amazed.
We had various channels in the Microsoft Teams as you can see from the screen shot below (the hidden channel happens to be the Coaching Review) and all our conversations and decisions happened in there. The book itself was a Microsoft Word template that was outlined with Chapters and headings – and we decided which chapter we wanted to write. Having the template “look” like a book with all its chapters put me in the frame of mind of writing. Psychologically seeing the book outline made the writing easier. (In the past I attempted to write something in a clean MS Word document but I felt aimless. I know that you just should write and not worry about format, template, headings or styles but for me, I really need to SEE that I’m actually writing A BOOK to get into the mindset).
We chose the chapters we wanted to write. There was no rhyme or reason around the chapters as I chose the ones that I most resonated with. Much of the book also includes taking a ‘performance consulting’ approach which is my background anyway so I chose the chapters where I had a particular story to share.
We also had ‘Track Changes” on the book template so as we wrote, you can imagine how messy it started to become because our book coach was also editing our chapters at the same time. I had to clear the changes to work “fresh” however, she also included annotations that required certain actions such as defining words or abbreviations or using appropriate citation.
If you’re wondering why we termed our Team [External] it’s because we had a couple of external people (editors and coaches) join the team and it’s a way we distinguish between teams that consist only of A&E staff and teams that consist of both A&E staff and external partners/clients/agents. The latter sometimes requires us being aware of what is discussed in channels.
What I Learned
One of the biggest challenges for me was once I got into the flow of writing, it was difficult NOT to stop the flow.
I had to automatically stop myself from doing an internet search or taking screenshots (because that would have sucked out more time) and instead, whenever I had the urge to look something up, I merely jotted it down and continued writing.
The urge to “pretty up” the writing, to edit on the go also was difficult for me. I usually write a couple of paragraphs then I would go back to the start, edit and re-write the paragraphs and never be pleased with the result. A constant cycle of writing, editing and re-writing. This was a habit I had to stop – and JUST KEEP ON WRITING WHETHER IT WAS GOOD OR BAD.
Even now, I’m fighting the temptation to go back to the start of this blog post and fix all the errors and put headings in….sigh.
I also learned that I loved the process of writing and as we were going through the book coaching, I began to wonder that writing a book isn’t that hard. Why did I make it so hard in my head? After all, so many others have written books before me however, I always made up some excuses. “I don’t have anything to share!” “I’ve been writing in my blog for years” etc. All excuses.
Also, I had previously written AN ENTIRE BOOK that I left unpublished. That’s right. I wrote a book a couple of years back on Snapchat: Use of Portrait Video to Show and Share Your Work and Expertise and basically completed it. However, by the end of it, people were putting Snapchat down as a “lost cause of a social network” that I lost interest. Lots of the people who I had mentioned in the book had since moved over to Instagram and the book felt “hollow” to say the least. Even though writing it gave me the satisfaction of putting down in writing my love of this network as a medium from which my love of story telling, working out loud and creativity somehow, when it came to the last step of putting it up on Amazon, I left it sadly. What a waste.
Where Can You Buy the Book?
So you may be thinking now, where can I buy Microsoft Teams: A Manager’s Guide to Communication, Collaboration and Coordination with Microsoft Teams?
At the moment, the book is only available as a Kindle version on Amazon for $4.80 and the paperback version is on track to be ready for purchase on 5 December.
Who Is This Book For?
If your organisation has implemented Microsoft Teams (and people and teams are running rampant on it) OR if your organisation is thinking about implementing Microsoft Teams, then this is for you. It’s particularly suited for people who want to help their employees and teams to take a more methodical approach to teamwork ensuring they have the structure and framework set up for success so that team members can immediately start to be productive within it.
I would also say that it provides guidance to people who are in the IT, Change and Learning space especially if they have to work with internal business clients who are putting in Teams and somehow it’s gone rogue (unthreaded conversations, gifs galore, channel explosion etc) where teams are being created without any forethought in what they need to achieve. This book will help pull it in and ensure that teams are aware that a framework still needs to be in place to determine what needs to be achieved, how it needs to be set up and establish some protocols around engagement and how the team operates.
If you order the book, then please let us know how you find it or even better, write a review!