Distributed Work Rules

About ten years ago it was called computer supported collaborative work (CSCW) but today I would just call it getting things done using the Web. Most of my work is at a distance and I’ve been using Web collaboration tools since they became available. The Web has been around for the past 15 years or so, which means that for anyone under 35, it’s been part of the surround for most of their working lives.

I’ve been working as part of a distributed team that is composed mostly of people over 40 and as a result have accumulated several hundred e-mails on one project alone. I usually get maybe a dozen e-mail per day, but this month has required some serious triage of a hundred at a time. I guess this is how “normal” people work every day. Perhaps the next time I join a distributed team, I’ll ask everyone to accept certain ground rules. If not, I may decide not to play.

  1. Documents that are edited by more than one person must be created, edited and commented upon on a wiki or other collaborative web document such as Google Docs, Central Desktop, etc. (This graphic explains it quite well)
  2. The group must select a text chat method for small details that need to be discussed (Skype, MSM, Google Chat, etc). [Dozens of threads using “Reply All” saying things like, “well done” are a waste of the team’s time]
  3. Document formatting should only be considered/discussed once the content has been agreed upon, and then only one person/agency is responsible.
  4. E-mail should only be used for official correspondence that requires a date/time stamp for archival reasons. Contracts, acceptance of deliverables and official feedback would be examples.

Any other suggestions? Perhaps we need a Distributed Work Manifesto.

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