Why context is key to effective collaboration

If someone gives you a piece of paper, asks you to sign it in five places, and list out personal information about your insurance, social security and family, you’re probably going to have a question.

Why context is key to effective collaboration


The tasks we do every day are not isolated events. They fit into something larger that is the overarching reason for you doing it. Without that bigger picture, it doesn’t really make sense.

Yet every day in the workplace, people are collaborating out of context. Emails are being sent regarding tasks within larger work items. Slack is being used to discuss responses to client emails. And records of phone conversations talking about a particular project are being stored completely separate to where the rest of that project is being tracked.

When communication like this is happening out of context to the bigger piece of the puzzle, it creates confusion, inefficiencies, and means you’re not allowing your team to reach their potential.

So why don’t you question this?

Collaboration in context

Effective communication is the foundation of team collaboration. Even though tasks are done by many individuals, those individuals miss out on the strength of a team if they work in silos.

But communication is more than just knowing what is supposed to be done and making sure it happens. Micromanaging may work in short spurts, but requires a lot of effort and won’t elicit much enthusiasm amongst staff.

This is why context is so crucial. You can lay out the plans, goals and mission of the team for everyone to see, and see how everything fits inside of a bigger strategy. Everyone should see where their individual tasks fit within a context that makes sense at a broad level.

Context creates efficiency

Having context for work is not only helpful in knowing why you are doing what you are doing, but it’s also tremendously more efficient.

It's almost impossible to effectively discuss work when the critical details aren’t front-of-mind. Or to talk about the response to a difficult client email when that email isn’t right there. Or to draw on a colleague’s comment from last week that you just can’t locate right now.

If you are communicating outside of the context of the project—a phone call here, an isolated email there—then each piece needs to be explained every time. And when the task moves back to its bigger project you have to explain it all over again.

The solution is to have one system that can be your team’s single source of truth, that allows for conversations to happen in the context of the work itself. When the work is connected in the same place as the communication happens, there is no need to keep adding the context. Everything is there where your team needs it.

Context invites collaboration

Have you ever been in a project and thought you could probably have more people working on it, but then realized it would take too long to catch them up on what’s happening?

Too often, when communication is so spread out, collaboration becomes more trouble than it’s worth. By keeping communication centralized it is much easier to engage with other teammates or even freelancers, who need to jump in and start contributing.

By keeping the communication together, anyone can come right in and see the progress and how everything fits together. You also don’t have to miss a beat if someone is out for unexpected circumstances. It’s much easier to work as a team because everyone is on the same page and can see clearly where the work stands.

As your team grows and speed ramps up, it becomes increasingly important to eliminate waste. By communicating in context, you move faster and truly harness the power of communication. Keep your tasks in context and discuss work where work gets done.