Microsoft Teams – There is no “I” in Teams

Have you been curious about Microsoft Teams, jumped in, poked around some, maybe sent a message to someone, only to find yourself wondering what the big deal is? There are some aspects of Teams that you can leverage by yourself, but the most powerful part of Microsoft Teams is when you focus on the "We" and "Collaboration" aspects and not on just "I".

I want you to try again, but this time do not open Microsoft Teams, instead, start with a brief scan of your email and IM. Take a look at the past month of emails and IM. The goal is to identify one or two groups of individuals you collaborate with frequently and one or two common themes discussed with them.

  • Who are the most frequent people you communicate with day to day?
  • What are the topics you typically engaged in with those individuals, pay attention to the email conversations that are noisy and contain many Reply All's?
  • Can you identify common groups of individuals you speak with frequently about shared topics?

Once you have identified the people and shared threads take a moment and look inside of Microsoft Teams, check and see if you are part of existing Teams with the individuals. Speak with the individuals you have identified, see if there are existing Teams that share common people and conversations.

If there are existing Teams that contain the collective groups of people great, join those Teams and then evaluate if the channels in that Team cover your specific topics, if not discuss with the Team creating a new channel or just jump into an existing channel and start collaborating. If there is no Team in place, consider creating a Team and inviting those folks into the Team to start communicating and collaboration.

Now before you stop reading and assume your all set, let's talk about habits and commitment. It's essential that the team agree and commit to this new way of working. Create some guidelines with your new team and don't be shy to remind folks when they are engaging in communications outside of the various Teams and Channels. Below are some ways to help to drive usage, increase productivity, and drive better communication.

  • If you get an email that is relevant to your team and you want to share it, don't forward it to the Team via email. Instead just forward it to the email address assigned to the relevant channel. The message will then be placed in that channel, making it available for the team, it will be easy to find and search for in the future, and will reduce the volume of emails.
  • If you want to communicate with someone ask yourself is this dialog relevant to an existing Team and Channel. If it is, great go to that location and engage in communications and collaboration on that topic. If it is not, consider having a one-to-one or group Chat with the folks on that topic. If over time you are finding that you have frequent Chats with a common theme with those folks over one-to-one or group chats its time to consider driving that conversation into a new or existing Channel in a Team.
  • Work out in the open, this one may feel weird at first, but the collaboration and level of engagement you will get are amazing. What is great is that you do not have to feel pressured to ask peers to review your work. It will happen naturally when you are working on a document in a channel and out in the open.
  • When someone posts a message and you want to let them know you saw the post and provide an acknowledge don't reply with a message like "Got it", just use the Thumbs up button on the specific message. This will help reduce the volume of messages and keep the messages meaningful.
  • Prioritize your communications by Following channels and taking advantage of @Mentions. When you Follow channels, you will get toast notifications as well as emails regarding conversations that are happening in the channels, allowing you to stay very engaged in those discussions. For the remaining channels, you can review them at your leisure by merely looking for the channels that are bold indicating there are new messages in those channels you have not yet seen. Since people are not aware of what channels you may follow it is a good habit if you have a message that you need someone to see or take action on you should @Mention them or the entire Team. Using @Mentions will provide a notification as well a RED indicator next to the message letting the person know they need to take action.
  • Consider moving Email Distribution lists you may be on into Teams or Office 365 Groups. Doing so will help reduce the noise in your email account and contribute to organizing the communications better.
  • If you want to have a Voice, Video, or Screen sharing session with someone consider if the conversation is relevant to a group or channel. If it does consider starting the meeting within the channel. While other folks on the team may not be available by starting the conversation in a channel the other team members can see the active meeting and join in if they are available and feel they can contribute to the discussions.
  • Slash Commands, if you have not tried them give them a shot. It makes getting things done amazingly fast. Such as "/call John Doe".

There are a lot of significant aspects to Microsoft Teams. Once you start using it, you will find you want to incorporate more conversations and collaboration within the tool. Once I started to leverage Microsoft Teams on a daily basis, I quickly saw benefits in how I engage and collaborate. The interests range from being more efficient, consolidation of information into a single platform, and working in new productive ways. I often work and collaborate with folks across multiple time zones, with Microsoft Teams, and it's persistent chat aspect it's effortless to collaborate outside of the bounds of time.

When I am ready to engage with an individual or team my first action is to determine how I can do it in Microsoft Teams. While I could easily use Skype, Email, Phone, text, etc., by centralizing all my work and communications within one interface, I find I am more organized and can better manage my day. I have also discovered I can find items from previous discussion or collaboration very quickly. Below is a quick flow I go through before starting a conversation.

Chat: General Communication and Collaboration that often start as a chat, and then escalate to voice, video, and/or screen sharing.

  • When reaching out to someone on a new topic
  • When I want to have a one to one discussion with someone
  • When I want to have a group discussion with individuals on a topic or group of individuals that do not exist in a Teams and Channel already.

Teams: Team / Project-based Communication and Collaboration that often starts as a chat, and then escalates to voice, video, screen sharing, and document collaboration.

  • When I want to communicate and collaborate with a group of individuals in a team on a new topic, I will use the General Channel.
  • When I want to communicate and collaborate with a group of individuals in a team on a specific topic that is already defined by a particular channel.

Hope this helps in thinking about one way to get started with Microsoft Teams, let's get Teaming.

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