In praise of visibility.

At MMC we love collaborating.   

It is part of us, we love to listen, we love to give everyone a fair voice.  We are a small company, but we have many different people and personalities in our business family.  We have spent a lot of time over the last few years, learning how to understand each other better, and to always put ourselves in the shoes of others.  

It has not been without challenges.  Alignment and communication is more complex, but we believe more effective and inclusive.  Giving feedback is harder, but with it in the end comes greater trust.  Making tough decisions has been emotionally difficult, but pretending things are fine is worse. 

Because of this, we believe in visibility.  Of ourselves, and of our work.  We have worked hard to create a culture of sharing, and a culture where information and thought process is always done in the open.  If we believe something is right, then even if it doesn’t always come out in the right way first time, at least it is out in the open and we can then figure it out together.   

In digital design and development, it also means that hidden problems such as conflicting priorities, unwelcome surprises or interruptions, and the real capacity of the team are managed as best we can.  There has been a lot of writing about these kind of issues, and how visibility can help – and we are big advocates of these excellent theories.  One in particular we would recommend is  by Dominica DeGrandis: Making Work Visible: Exposing Time Theft to Optimize Workflow

Our love of visibility has also helped us during this current moment of restricted travel that we are experiencing.  This moment, where some of the ways that we used to communicate, have been removed.  Where we cannot bump into anyone in the corridor, the canteen or the metaphorical water cooler.  Where we have to be focused on information flow, because any moment a four-year-old might need us and we might have to duck out of the rest of the meeting, and will need to catch up later. 

It has created or forced new habits, that focus on visibility.   

No longer can all information be dispersed across emails, shared drives, or lost through the inability to have as many informal verbal chats.  It has to be accessible and available to all, and at our fingertips.  Meeting notes are no longer a chore, they are an essential staple of a remote team who might be working on different schedules.  Central points of information, group chats, and collaborative software, have become more important than ever.   

Chats have become democratised, and we have had to learn to listen more.  There is no head of the table on Zoom, or Teams.  You can see each other, in small, square and equal boxes.  It is a skill we have had to quickly learn, but once you get the hang of it then seeing everyone’s bedroom, and waiting for your turn, is starting to feel more natural.  Talking over each other is awkward and amplified, which somehow creates more pauses, more opportunity for everyone to contribute and be heard.   

If just these two things become habits that endure, we believe that businesses can return to work with new skills that will create greater efficiency, more effective prioritisation, and better output at less wasted effort.  We believe it can create harmony in the culture, where the focus can still be on decision making, but not at any cost.  Creative industries especially, need to be disruptive in thinking and swift in execution, but we believe that visibility and collaboration does not always mean over-analysis or compromise.  

It means common ground, of information and of communication.  But if everyone is comfortable with having 75% of the data they need for an opinion, and trust that they will heard, there is no need for speed to suffer.  If everyone knows when, how, and on what criteria a decision is being made, nothing is hidden and conflict is reduced.   

There has been a lot of talk recently about being in different boats, in the same sea.  This is true in during coronavirus, and in life.  If we all understand each other a little more, then we can all follow the same tides. 

by Ian McClellan, Director.

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