Like most business leaders, my most precious asset is time – and when I look at my schedule I’m spending about 80% of my time in meetings.  Some studies suggest the average knowledge worker spends around half their time in meetings.  When I measure my own personal productivity, by definition, there’s no more important place to look than these meetings.  We’ve all been in “meeting h*ll” where we’re asking basic questions like, “Who called this meeting,”  “What’s the agenda,” and “What are we trying to accomplish here?”


If you’ve ever asked these same questions during meetings, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Increased collaboration means increased interaction with others, which means more meetings. And, with more and more work being done collaboratively and in virtual settings, often with people in different time zones or even different countries with whom you haven't spent a lot of time face to face, image the opportunities to be more effective. That’s why it’s absolutely essential for your teams to systematically make the most of your time together -- especially for virtual participants.


It’s a great feeling when you conclude a highly productive meeting – wouldn’t it be great if you could dramatically increase the productivity of all your meetings? With this goal in mind, we developed what we call the Clarity of Purpose model for meeting management, which involves four straightforward steps meeting owners can take to ensure collaborative sessions of any kind are as productive as possible.


Chapter 6 of The Collaboration Imperative: Executive Strategies for Unlocking Your Organization’s True Potential, the book Carl Wiese and I co-authored, covers the Clarity of Purpose model in detail, and I encourage you to get your hands on the book to learn more. You can also go to to watch videos explaining the model and download useful meeting-management templates. Just click on the “Maximize Meetings” box.


As I get feedback on The Collaboration Imperative, the chapter on the Clarity of Purpose model is one that really seems to resonate with busy business leaders. I hope you find it as valuable as we do in our efforts to stop wasting time.

Mobility is a topic of increasing interest in the contact center industry.  The exceptional popularity of mobile communications devices is forcing customer service professionals to consider how to make these mobile devices conducive to a complete customer care experience.  Today it is common for a mobile device user who needs personal service to have to terminate the typical mobile application in order to initiate service with a live agent.  


While the industry concentrates on mobility from the customer side of the equation, I think there is an equally important aspect of mobility that is being overlooked by much of the industry.  The overlooked aspect addresses mobility on the task side of the customer service transaction; i.e., on the contact center side.  In other words, what about bringing mobility to some of the tools and applications being used in the customer service center.


With the advent of the Web 2.0 framework and the ability to create widgets, or applets, that are browser-based and can run on any browser-enabled mobile device, the possibilities of mobilizing many contact center tasks moves from concept to reality.  The challenge now becomes creating practical applications that address contact center performance as well as customer convenience.


First thought, of course, is to provide agents with mobile access to contact center applications while they’re outside of the contact center, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Realistically speaking, it is unlikely that many hourly wage agents will be motivated to take work home after their shift is over.  The exception to this may be allowing agents access to their schedules and request changes at any time from a mobile device.  This is an agent mobility application that makes sense.


For the contact center supervisor and manager, mobility could become an essential tool.  Providing supervisors the ability to move around the contact center while monitoring performance metrics could be an industry game changer.  Providing mobility for supervisors so that they could leave their desk without having to leave performance applications behind could boost productivity exponentially.  Efficiency could also be significantly improved if, for example, supervisors had anywhere access to things like the master schedule in order to quickly address the need to attend to tasks such as shifting breaks around and other schedule adjustments.


The challenge now is for a technology supplier to step up and start working on making mobile applications on the contact center operational side a reality.  This will take a little more imagination and creativity than will creating mobile applications on the customer side, but I believe mobility applications on the inside will have just as great an impact on the industry as mobility applications on the outside.  It’s time to start thinking about contact center mobility from the inside out.

For those working in technology, we love our acronyms don't we?  I'm also a military veteran meaning I have an even greater love of acronyms, or a love/hate relationship with them.  Not because I dislike a good acronym, but because there are so many that are created in the work environment (some quite clever) that it's difficult to keep up.  It's not just acronyms, but all sorts of terminology that appear throughout the workplace and while we each have an idea of what they mean, they don't always mean what we think they mean.  As evidenced by this inconceivable montage.


We know that documentation is important, but at the same time we expect the applications and processes we use to be so intuitive that documenting them is, for the most part, unnecessary.  We never do get that lucky.  There are two good rules for documentation:

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Keep it current


There is also an exception to these rules and the exception is "there are exceptions to these rules".  Much like over 90% of code is error checking, 90% of documentation is what to do and how, with a small percentage dealing with exceptions.  How do we get past this and ensure our corporate documentation is useful to those who take the time to read it? 


There are two topics of workplace documentation that are critical to smooth operations.  One is a common terminology, a master dictionary of nomenclature if you will.  Including all the acronyms that clever people create at the workplace.  Second is detailing processes and the applications used in those processes while incorporating your enterprise language.  Detailing visually is a great way of keeping it simple.  When you can show a screenshot of where to click, or a live video of the mouse pointer moving and clicking, it's so much easier to grasp then trying to explain with words only.


If your Content Management System (CMS) is called "Doc Holiday" then refer to it as "Doc Holiday" with a link to your dictionary of enterprise nomenclature.  There it can be explained that "Doc Holiday" is the CMS so named because of these funny stories of how in the beginning it was so slow to use it seemed to be out of town on a holiday and search was so poorly structured it was "a gamble" to get the right answer and it was always "like pulling teeth" if you'd find what you needed.  Now it's common place for fellow employees to tell you to "ask Doc Holiday" meaning search the CMS for the document.  (BTW- this is not a true story of a CMS name I ever dealt with, but one I just made up on the fly.  I first called it "Daffy Doc" and when I couldn't think of a good story I changed it to "Doc Holiday", which I could work with.)


The challenge is how to keep documentation current.  This is where I'm a proponent of online workplace communities with a "living document" structure.  Allow the document to be updated and edited as needed to comply with the rules of keeping documentation simple and current.  Allow people to add exceptions within the document, appended as comments, or as a new set of documents that can be referenced.  If there's a concern of open editing, keep in mind that proper wiki pages have version control, tracking, and roll-back capabilities.  If there's still a concern, then arrange for a content gatekeeper that receives update requests and rolls them in accordingly.  Bearing in mind that as your company grows so will the documentation requirements and a single gatekeeper can become a choke point


Business processes are loosely structured today, designed to be fluid in support of new initiatives such as BYOD and the documentation that details them should be just as fluid.  Incent your employees to play an active role in keeping corporate documentation current by editing typos, fixing errors and updating outdated information.  Develop an archive strategy that removes ancient information from search.  Always provide the most relevant information to a user.  Documentation isn't difficult, but if you want to empower your employees to be self-sufficient in learning processes, applications and corporate nomenclature then you need them to Read The Friendly Manual and find value when they do.

E-mail is one of my preferred methods of communication.  Although I'm not sure if it's "e-mail" or "email", but both seem to be accepted and used interchangeably.  I will say that the spell check on this thing accepted "e-mail" and rejected "email" and since I use the former, I'm happy to have it validated by spell check.  I was a reading a magazine and came across the following article: People Are Always Misinterpreting My Emails. What Am I Doing Wrong? and wanted to expand on the thoughts of the Esquire Guy.  There are many ways to communicate and collaborate and in some particular order my personal favorites are:

  1. In person
  2. E-mail
  3. Short Message Service (SMS) or Instant messaging (IM)
  4. Phone


This list is in some particular order because the order may change depending on; what it is I'm trying to communicate, the timeline and to whom.  There are only shades of gray, no hard and fast rules on how to communicate in business.  Assuming in person is not optimal, I prefer e-mail and IM for the following reasons in no particular order:

  • I am a touch typist and while I'm not fast by some standards I'm not slow either.
  • I can collect my thoughts and put them down in draft form to review and edit before clicking "send".
  • Since e-mail is "fire-and-forget" and I tend to do just that, I like having the history to read and remember why I sent it in the first place and if the response still matters.
  • E-mail clients are fast.  I can create filters, rules, and searches to keep me from seeing spam, group and sort messages intelligently, and find what I want by person, date or key words.


E-mail is great for outbound communication, particularly to a group of people.  The challenge with e-mail is using it as a vehicle for collaboration.  Soliciting feedback from a group elicits a string of "reply-all" responses that in turn snowball into more reply-all responses eventually leading to reply-all responses asking others to stop with the reply-all responses.  I believe this counts as a contradiction or perhaps irony since somebody will still reply-all pointing out the contradiction of doing a reply-all asking people to stop with the reply-all.  This is where BCC can come in handy.  If you send the e-mail to yourself and BCC the list, those reply-all responses will come only to you.


I agree with the Esquire Guy on not having lengthy e-mail signatures with superfluous words of wisdom or images.  If you insist on adding a large signature block then delimit it with the standard delimiter per e-mail best practices.  This way the signature may be stripped out.  There really is no need to use any format other then plain text.  Just as you should assume every e-mail will be forwarded and possibly read in a court of law, you should also assume the recipient of your e-mail may not be at a high-speed computer or typical e-mail client.  It's a mobile world and e-mail is no exception.  There are many devices and applications for e-mail communications and the world will be best served if you optimize your message for any and all devices and readers.  I have a laptop, tablet, and mobile phone that I use to access e-mail.  Each offer multiple ways to access e-mail from client applications specifically for e-mail to browser based interfaces.  Here's a comparison of e-mail clients to give you an idea of what's out there, which any of your recipients may be using.


TED’s Curator Chris Anderson has been thinking about the problem and has launched an e-mail charter to bring awareness to the fact that e-mail takes more time in response(s) then to create.  We rely heavily on e-mail, it's our comfort zone.  I'm guilty of it, but I'm trying hard not to be.  Many times e-mail is not the right vehicle for communication.  If you're meeting a co-worker for a taco at lunch, try an IM.  If you want to solicit feedback from a group, try a post.  If you want to crowdsource a paper, try a wiki.  If you want to pontificate, try a blog.  The irony is that while these vehicles reduce the flow of e-mail, they tend to send notifications in the form of an e-mail.  So, while there is and will continue to be talk of banning internal e-mail, it looks like e-mail will remain active for awhile.  Let's agree to do our best to optimize the e-mail experience for all, limit it to useful purposes, and consider other avenues for communications that achieve the same results better, quicker, and cheaper.

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