Want to reduce digital distraction for your team? Physician, heal thyself!

From the Easy in theory, difficult in practice Blog
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My musings on project management, project portfolio management and change management. I'm a firm believer that a pragmatic approach to organizational change that addresses process & technology, but primarily, people will maximize chances for success. This blog contains articles which I've previously written and published as well as new content.

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Two articles caught my attention this morning so I thought I'd connect the dots between them in this week's article.

The first article indicates that the Microsoft Teams collaboration support tool has passed Slack in terms of daily users.  In combination, both tools are used by roughly 23 million users daily which is more than half the population of Canada. Tools such as Teams and Slack provide valuable support for geographically or temporally dispersed team members to collaborate on their work activities. Even for co-located teams, the persistent chat capability of such tools allows team members who were not present for a conversation to catch up when they return to the office. Both Teams and Slack can be accessed via web browsers and from their own smartphone apps.

The other article provides four tactics for helping team members avoid digital distraction. Creating quiet spaces for mental recharging, encouraging device-free breaks, facilitating the development of team working agreements which will include reasonable time and location boundaries for device usage and supporting team members who choose to block time in their working calendars for distraction-free work can all help.

Whereas the first article highlights the growing importance and incidence of being constantly connected, the second encourages us to help staff to disconnect.

What is ironic is that an agile mindset values focus and yet the tooling used to support agile delivery encourages greater levels of distraction.

But something critical is missing from the second article.

One of the most important influences for encouraging our team members to find a healthy balance is their perceptions of our own actions. When we are in one-on-one or group meetings, are we closing our laptop lids and keeping our phones in our pockets or purses and letting calls go to voicemail? Are we resisting the temptation to initiate or to respond to team conversations or questions outside of normal working hours? And are we self-aware enough to be aware when we don't model the healthy device usage behavior we'd like our team members to demonstrate?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

Posted on: July 14, 2019 07:00 AM | Permalink

Comments (10)

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Kiron,

Modeling behaviors is extremely important and something that I truly work at and discuss with others. However, when it comes to "healthy device usage," I find that I’m constantly tripping over that log. Thank you for the reminder – and a great post!

More important is to use these tools diligently.

Regardless of approach and tools, respect, professionalism, and consideration remain. Shame on us if requires an explicit callout in the working agreement, though could set a level of expectation that is consistent and free from interpretation. Certainly, a buffer of reasonability around availability and accessibility.
Thanks, Kiron.

Thanks George, Pravin & Andrew - this habit is a hard one to break but the journey of a thousand miles has to begin with that first disconnect!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this

Hello Kiron: Thank you for sharing. We can often feel bombarded by unscheduled team mates stepping into our office, cell and business phone call, e-mails, instant messages and the other technology - all coming at us while we are trying to focus....and many of us are juggling multiple projects, time zones and teams. I call it tap dancing on a moving floor. Hard! Workplace respect is very important here - being able to focus on the moment and give it our full attention - taking control of our schedules and creating times for focus or times to disconnect is important, and protecting the schedule of others and respecting their times for focus or disconnection is equally important. Thank you for reminding us all of this!

Thanks for the great feedback, Lori, Eduin & Abolfazl!

This is a very thought provoking article. I remember when computers were first introduced and sold as the panacea to shorten the work week and provide people balance in their life. However just the opposite occurred.We as humans need interactions with others to remain productive. Sometimes we must turn & tune out before we burnout.

Great post Kiron.

I'm a bit late to the party (discussion) but I found your comment around Agile processes/tools encouraging distraction interesting. I had not thought of that. I had just thought of (focused on) Agile as a way for the team to regularly but quickly work out where to focus (today/this week) and so everyone can go off and execute free of distraction. (This ignores someone genuinely requiring some additional help or input to proceed.)

I guess that's really part of the Agile PM/coach role, helping people clear the distractions and bad habits. And as per your last comment, starting with me!

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