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a blog by Chris Barrow

Replacing the curse of WhatsApp with better digital team collaboration

I’ve been thinking recently about and observing how teams collaborate.

You’ve heard me say many times that “all problems exist in the absence of a good conversation”.

In a dental team, that conversation is now more often digital than face to face.

Is that a benefit or a curse?

That choice is yours.

However, based on observation I have reached the conclusion that, in this context, WhatsApp is more likely to be a curse.

There seems to be a growing tendency to think that just because a Dental Principal is immersed in a clinical day for 7 hours or more, that it’s perfectly OK to send a stream of messages during that day, so that they can be checked between patients, during lunch or at the close of play.

Those messages can form a continuous thread of dialogue, with no differentiation between one subject or another, between one deadline or none.

It is difficult to imagine a less effective way of communicating – no wonder that the frazzled recipient misses things, reads words out of context, reacts rather than responds, make snap decisions just to clear the backlog.

So what would be better?

In what I dare to call the good old days, I can recall being coached myself to focus on my clients until 16:00 and instruct my support team that I could be interrupted after then but not before.

Messages, decisions and information were queued until then and it was only after I had completed a day’s work (and follow up) that my PA and other team members would be allowed to arrive with their tasks and questions for me.

Interesting that I still do that – and Phillippa knows that on a Bunker Day (like today) – unless it’s a genuine emergency, there are no interruptions until after four o’clock.

As to the day to day collaboration on tasks and projects – later on I’ll be presenting a webinar on the subject to dentists in Australia.

What I’ll be sharing with them is how to use Dropbox, Slack and Asana to stay connected without interrupting each other.

Digital can be a blessing when used correctly.

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