February 26, 2013
Are you a Little Red Hen?You know the fable…
The Little Red Hen does all the work (planting, harvesting, threshing, milling and baking) to turn a single wheat seed into a delicious loaf of bread. But throughout her efforts, she can’t get her barnyard friends to help until it’s time to participate in the fun – eating the bread. Frustrated by this, she decides not to share the bread.
I’m guessing the barnyard morale never fully recovered. Our natural instincts have us blaming the other animals for not wanting to help. The Little Red Hen ends up doing all the work so surely the rest of the animals are at fault. But what if we weren’t given all the information?
- What if the other animals were busy with their own responsibilities and already overextended on time?
- What if the Little Red Hen didn’t communicate the schedule very well and announced her requests for help with little or no advance notice to the other animals?
- What if her requests for help and instructions to the other animals were randomly squawked out into the barnyard amongst all the other animal sounds?
- What if the other animals, later in the day, remembered some of her squawks…but without a common place to organize everything around her purpose, let the thought go and did not follow-up?
If we assume all of this “new information” is true, who’s really at fault—the Little Red Hen or the other animals? Think about the group you’re a part of that is trying to accomplish something. Do you relate more with The Little Red Hen or the other barnyard animals? Chances are you’ve experienced struggles from both perspectives.
I’ve spent the last couple of years studying groups connected by a common purpose in two very different settings – project teams at work and groups people volunteer for in their personal lives. Because of that loaded word “volunteer”, I’ve found the “Little Red Hen scenario” is more likely to occur with groups in our personal life. Here’s some thoughts on how you can avoid it.
The Little Red Hen was first published by Golden Books in the 1940s, so she didn’t have technology on her side. You do. But only if you use it in a way that actually makes things easier for those that you want participation from. Sending emails out to a team and expecting everything will work out is not the answer.
“Social Collaboration” is the answer. Not too familiar with this nebulous term? Let me break it down into four key things. Provide each of these for your group and you’ll have harmony in the barnyard as you achieve great things together.
Create one virtual place for your group’s purpose: Give everyone connected to your group’s purpose or project a common place to communicate, share, and save information. End the wastefulness of everyone duplicating effort by receiving and saving the same information in their own specific ways.
Use an interactive shared calendar and schedule: If your group has regular meetings, events, or due dates for actions and tasks, make them viewable and known to everyone in the group. When a date changes, have one person responsible for making the change that cascades effortlessly to everyone else’s personal calendar. Nobody in your group should waste time manually updating their personal calendar related to your group.
Connect communication within the group to CONTEXT: Everything you’re asking of your group members ties back to a purpose you’re trying to achieve together. Sending out emails with information about a task or calendar event that’s not connected and organized within a central place for the group puts the effort on each individual to make the connection on their own. It becomes just one more thing they’ve got to deal with in their inbox. But if you connect all communication to the context of the group’s purpose, you’ll make it easier for them to engage.
Provide a “mobile app” for your group’s purpose: Give everyone in your group access to this one organized place from wherever they are. All group communication arrives on a smartphone as pop-up notifications, just like text messages, giving your group prominence over all other messages hitting the abyss of an email inbox.
Does it sound daunting to pull all of this technology together? It’s not.
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