As some of you know, I often work with groups on big pieces of flip chart paper. How archaic. BUT, I have also stepped into the 21st century and use Google documents (“docs”) – an online document that multiple people can access – to work with teams. I find it very powerful.
How does it work? To start, set up a shared online folder in Google Drive with separate documents in folders. The owner of the document can give editing access or “view only” access to multiple participants. For our family cottage we share financials with nine families but allow editing for two people.
Remember to name the folder appropriately – I’ve had to ask for folders to have the organization’s name, not just “Strategic Planning” as I have multiple groups I’m doing strategic planning with. It’s also useful to set a standard naming protocol, starting with the date so that the most recent draft shows up first on the list.
In real time I use Google Docs during a meeting so that participants can comment on and see changes to a document as we work, like a blackboard. It can be used when everyone is in the same room (projected or on individual screens) or when located in separate locations. As I’ve talked about in a previous blog (March 2017), using a common text that all can comment on and edit in real time works like the One-Text Approach outlined in Getting to Yes, which advocates the power of negotiating agreed-upon language through multiple rounds of edits.
In between meetings In between meetings, using a Google doc distributes ownership and increases efficiency. Post a draft timeline, contract, or proposal, and get input before meeting. A search committee I was on with members in two countries and candidates from four countries, posted schedules, candidate interview questions, reference check debriefs, etc. on Google Docs, for review and commentary in between meetings.
In addition to giving access to everyone on the team, posting online is efficient. It avoids having to send out emails with drafts or agendas; allows editing without the possibility that drafts will cross; and makes it easier to find the most recent draft.
In sum, while I still use flip charts when appropriate, I find the elegance and flexibility of Google Docs a game changer.