Poor communication and slow-moving projects? Digital Facilitating to the rescue

September 14, 2021 by Michael Diez

Here is the problem: How do you keep a big project moving forward without making communication an overwhelming mess?

Technology has made it faster to communicate, but has it made it easier?

Most of my clients struggle with communication during a big project. We either have the occasional face-to-face meeting or communicate via email sporadically.

When I try to introduce technology to help us improve communication, it’s hard for them to adopt or use it in one project and forget everything in the next project.

No wonder small business owners seem to always go for quick short-sighted solutions. Communication alone can be so overwhelming to them.

So what’s the answer to the question?

Work with Digital Facilitator

A digital facilitator is a person who helps groups of people work together using digital platforms and technologies.

When starting a big project involving two or more people, you'll need to have discussions, gather materials, generate information, and exchange information.

To do this, you generally coordinate a time and a place.

The most common way to conduct this is to meet face-to-face or join a conference call.

However, you'll quickly find the need to organize the discussions, materials, and information generated during those meetings.

And this is when digital technology is usually introduced.

But then what happens? They seldom have the patience to use the technology and if they use technology, it’s usually in a simplistic way (like using email for everything).

I once emailed a client a Google Doc with questions about their business, the client printed the document and filled it out hastily by hand. 😑

Then I had a few emails back and forth to try to get more information. 😞💨

But it actually makes sense. He printed the document so he could have it accessible during his flight - when he would have some time to fill it out. He found he needed to consult his partner for some of the questions, so he filled it out to the best of his knowledge at the moment.

But here is the thing, there are actually three types of digital facilitation, and which one is employed depends on the time and place to better gather information from everyone involved.

Digital Facilitation Types:

  • Virtual - when everyone meets at the same time but different locations
  • Physical - when everyone meets at the same time and location
  • Asynchronous - when people exchange information at different times from different locations

Experiences like this have taught me how to select the appropriate type of Digital Facilitation.

Choosing the right type of Digital Facilitation depending on the purpose of the meeting

Starting a meeting without a purpose is a waster of time. Don’t have a meeting if you don’t have a clear purpose.

The purpose of a meeting should fall into the following categories:

  • Social
    • Pick someone’s brain (Informal advice or consultation)
    • Get to know people in order to get comfortable with each other and make sure there is a cultural fit
  • Business
    • Problems
      • Discover Problems
      • Define Problems
    • Solutions
      • Decide on Solutions
      • Develop Solutions
      • Deliver Solution

Social Meeting Digital Facilitation

You probably have heard stories of people saying their best business conversations happened while playing golf (or in some other non-business setting).

It makes sense to me. I see Socializing as the lubricant of business facilitating.

Purpose Possible Locations Digital Technology
Pick someone’s brain Asynchronous
  • Email

    Virtual

    • Text Message
    • Phone call
    • Video call

      Physical

      • Coffee Shop
  • Email
  • WhatsApp / Teams / Slack
  • Phone
  • Zoom or Google Meet
Get to know people Virtual
  • Video Game

    Physical

    • Bar
    • Restaurant
    • Sports (Golf, soccer)
    • Meetups
  • Gaming PC or Console
  • Smartphone
  • Meetup App

Business Meeting Digital Facilitation

While you can have productive business conversations while socializing, as the problems you try to solve become more and more challenging and complex, you’ll need a formal business setting to streamline the process.

But why do people avoid business meetings? Are they really boring and unnecessary? Not necessarily. The key to productive business meetings is preparation.

If people do not know what the meeting is about and what they will be doing during the meeting, they will tune out.

Instead, give people a simple and clear purpose for the meeting and what is expected of them.

I’ve broken down business meetings into the following general themes:

  • Discover Problems
  • Define Problems
  • Decide Solutions
  • Develop Solutions
  • Deliver Solutions

I ordered them in the sequence you’ll have them.

When deciding on which solutions to implement, the meetings should be short. Most of the information has been discussed in the previous meetings. So Asyncrounous and Virtual meetings are perfect.

Purpose Possible Locations Digital Technology
Discover Problems Physical
  • Meeting Room
  • Note-taking app
  • Slide show app
Define Problems Virtual
  • Video conference
  • Note-taking app
  • Slide show app
  • Project/Task Management app
Decide Solutions Asynchronous
  • Email

    Virtual

    • Video conference
  • Slide show app
  • Email
  • Zoom or Google Meet
  • Project/Task Management app
Develop Solutions Asynchronous
  • Email

    Virtual

    • Phone
    • Video conference
  • Distributed Version Control System
  • Online Collaboration Apps (GSuite, Notion, etc)
  • Project/Task Management app
Deliver Solutions Asynchronous
  • Email
  • Notion
  • Cloud Storage

Working with a Digital Facilitator

When having multiple people working on a project, don’t make assumptions about how to communicate.

Use the table below to figure out how to communicate.

Purpose Location People Digital Technology
Discover Problems
Define Problems
Decide Solutions
Develop Solutions
Deliver Solutions

Don’t know how to fill this out? Start with a small project so you can learn from that experience what locations worked best.