Core area 4: Communication and working with others

Candidates should demonstrate their knowledge and skills in communication through working with others.

Statements could describe the way in which your work involves collaboration, for example through participation in a team or acting as an interface to other groups. Relevant evidence would include reflection on collaborations with others, reports outlining your activity within a team process, how you have brokered support for a particular initiative (for example from a technical or legal support service) or how you have worked with others to solve problems. Where your evidence involved collaboration, please acknowledge the contribution of others. You may also choose to discuss how you select appropriate forms of communication.

As a membership organisation communication and working with others is key. As well as communicating well as a team we need to support our Trustees, the membership and as part of our charitable objective the general public.

At the start of 2018 ALT transitioned to becoming a distributed organisation. As part of this our office at Oxford Brookes University was closed and as a team we all became homeworkers. For this section I would like to highlight and reflect on how as part of the senior management team at ALT I’ve been working with our CEO, Maren Deepwell, and the rest of our team to support the transition to this new model.

Having been a part-time homeworker before joining ALT in 2013 I’ve already experienced what it is like to not be co-located with the rest of a team, an entirely distributed team is proving to be a very different proposition. Despite advances in video conferencing and other collaborative tools there is what I would describe as a ‘hard interface’, with the removal of a number of awareness mechanisms you would get in a face-to-face context.

As part of the transition Maren and I have been sharing our experience our transition, sharing insights and lessons learned in a series of monthly jointly written blog posts. These blog posts not only evidence one of the mechanisms we use to work together, using a conversational style in order to share our contrasting perspectives and reflections, but also in themselves detail how we are approaching communication and working with our team. These posts include some of the practical solutions we have investigated and implemented to support distributed teams, such as sourcing a virtual phone system. They also reflect on not only shifting processes but also changing our mindset.

Evidence

Reflection

I’ve found the monthly joint blog posts have been an ideal opportunity to reflect and discuss our transition. As these are written asynchronously, sometimes over several days, there is time to reflect on the conversation. Having a monthly routine really helps in making you take some time each month to reflect on recent developments and with the conversational format there is an opportunity to get feedback/input from someone else. I find the format creates the opportunity for timely feedback, the discussion is still fresh in your mind but also there is time to reflect on the other person’s contribution and either use that in your own contribution or discuss further Usually as part of the process of writing the post we get a chance to discuss the post via Google Hangout, which is an opportunity for us to expand on our written thoughts. The monthly format also feels like the ideal pace, there being time for there to be something to write about and also scheduling some time for writing.

I feel that sharing our journey in an open format also has a wider benefit. When ALT decided to move to becoming a distributed organisation I was aware that it wasn’t a journey many organisations of our size had been on and also with current trends in flexible working it would likely be a journey many more would start. With this in mind I was keen that as an organisation, particularly with a charitable objective “for the benefit of the general public” that it would be useful to others to capture some of the decisions we made and solutions to problems we encountered. Initially I thought the posts would be a collection of how-tos, like how-to operate a virtual phone system, and whilst that does feature to some degree what we write is often the secondary benefit, the process itself being the most useful part.

I never actually anticipated people reading the joint posts and its sometimes a little alarming to discover people I know have read them. It’s however very rewarding to see the posts are of wider interest and that others might be benefiting from them.

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