Have you ever heard someone say something like “Hey, let’s not invite more than five or six people to our meeting next week. If we invite more we’ll just be unproductive anyways…”?
I have heard that many times before.
You could draw the conclusion that the saying “the more, the merrier” is only true for having a party, but not necessarily for getting things done. You could also come to think that “social” is the natural enemy of productivity.
I don’t think that either is true. I have participated in meetings with 20 folks and it was highly productive. Social does not mean to involve huge numbers of people anyways – it just means interaction between people (which could be just two or three as well). So social is not a productivity killer by definition.
The productivity killer is something else: Misalignment.
Misalignment can have different underlying drivers. Different people have different perspectives, different personalities, different personal goals and so on. This is the true challenge and yes, it multiplies by the number of people that are trying to get on the same page.
I wouldn’t claim that I have the silver bullet for eliminating misalignment, but there are a few things that I have observed in projects where we had a large number of people collaborating. This should get you started thinking in the right direction:
* You need a good project lead / moderator
* You need a solid framework that helps to guide the team (agendas, topic owners, deadlines, etc.)
* Use some common sense when deciding who and how many should be involved
* Don’t get hung up on technology – concentrate on what you want to achieve
Do you remember the times when student parties were organized by 20 different people and all of them contributed something else? All communication happened via phone or face2face and maybe some email – it was challenging but it worked…
You know what? Such parties are still being organized, only that social media and collaboration technologies are being used by students today simply because they make it easier to get the job done. It is quite funny that for “private” usage no one really starts a lengthy discussion about how the technologies could be used and if they should be used at all. Instead, folks concentrate on the actual subject at hand (the party) and just use whatever makes it easiest for them.