"Coordinating Group Collaboration: The Power of Methodology Over Tools"

Jan 31, 2024 - 4:26pmSummary: A team of four individuals with diverse skills in front-end and back-end design is coordinating on a project, facing the common and challenging problem of group collaboration. The group is utilizing tools like Zoom, Slack, and Notion to orchestrate their efforts effectively, ensuring that tasks are assigned and completed without impeding each other's progress. The success of their collaboration hinges on a shared understanding of their plan, rather than the tools themselves, highlighting the importance of methodology over the prescriptive nature of some project management software. Despite the difficulty of managing a team, especially when it exceeds two people, the experience demonstrates that while the right tools are helpful, the group's approach to working together is what ultimately leads to success in coordination.

Transcript: Wrestling with basically coordination, I suppose, at a high level. So the first call was just about how we're undertaking the project, and there's four-ish people who haven't worked together before, and various sets of skills across front-end and back-end design. And it's just pretty fascinating to sit here and experience what I think is one of the hardest problems that people have, which is how you get a group of people to, once they're given a pretty clear goal, I'd say not having a goal is upstream of this problem, and it's a beastly problem as well. But containing this conversation to the topic of having a goal, and a reasonably well-defined goal at that, but then figuring out what everybody's abilities are, what makes the most sense to do first, to do in a way that doesn't block other people, so that there's no blocked nor idle time, really. You don't get too far ahead of other people. There's a certain level of orchestration here, and the tools that you're talking through matter a lot. I mean, this was Zoom, Slack, Notion, but there's a bunch of tools. The question is, what philosophy are you piping through the tool still? One person can try to draft the best plan in the world, but if the other people don't recognize it as something they could follow, something that they could change, interrogate, and understand, then it doesn't really go. It won't really go. There's been times where I've been able to just kind of sit in a place with three or five other people, and there was no grand plan. There was no big specification document, but we had just enough clarity to understand what needed to be done next by each of us, and what the stop condition was, and then we just broke apart from the huddle and got to work, and then we'd come back together, and a couple things didn't quite fit together, but then we'd sit there and make them fit, and then that was a success. So, yeah, I think what I'm trying to say is the methodology matters as much as the tool. The tool doesn't really give you much out of the box unless it's overprescriptive, like some project management software tends to be, but then you're fighting against that. Yeah, so the problem of how to coordinate a group of people with varying skills and abilities, it's an astonishingly difficult one, but it's also basically the one that shows up everywhere, more or less whatever you try to build. With more than just yourself, you're going to have this problem. I wonder if there's anything about software that makes it different or harder or easier in some way, but, yeah, this one comes up a lot, and that's why I think also it scales, and working with one other person, a couple, or a business partnership, there's a certain level of agility and ease that comes with that that's really nice, but once it's more than two, then it's like a three-body-plus problem, and that can get complicated pretty quickly. So there you have it, some notes on coordination and such.

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