We know the final weeks of any quarter are fast and furious for just about everyone, and believe that teams can greatly benefit from setting aside time for reflecting collaboratively on the quarter's strengths and areas of opportunity.
Here at MURAL, we practice what we preach. Our small teams are distributed across four time zones. We stay effective by using a core stack of collaboration tools in a consistent way. MURAL, of course, is one of those tools. It lets us visualize our collective thoughts, keeping everyone on the same page on a daily basis.
For instance, each team has their own planning murals. These are used regularly - often daily - to show progress. Anyone in the company can see a team’s status at a glance. Using MURAL also opens up collaboration so everyone can contribute and comment.
We’re not alone in our frequent use of MURAL. For instance, McBeard, a leading media strategy firm in Los Angeles, relies on MURAL to manage the workflow of their campaigns. Each project at McBeard is set up with a series of resources, like a dropbox folder with a common naming convention. Creating a mural for each project is part of that.
Teams at McBeard then map out media campaigns and, using the commenting feature in MURAL, communicate directly on the content. Learn more about how McBeard uses MURAL in this webinar.
Media campaigns mapped out in MURAL at McBeard
From our own use and from observations of others, here’s a collection of regular uses of MURAL.
Virtual standups are common with dispersed teams. Use MURAL to capture activity and visualize it for others to see. For instance, the Customer Success team uses a format found in the template, below. (Click to add it to your workspace).
Each team member has a unique color and can organize their work for others to see. In a conference call, we go around and have each person discuss their weekly activities for 5 minutes or less each.The new team standup template in MURAL
Conference calls create a sequential style of interaction: only one person can talk at a time. With short attention spans for remote participants, this leads to a lack of focus and ultimately to multi-tasking.
Having a mural open for each meeting lets everyone participate in the call, even if they aren’t speaking. You can also add links and resources others may need, as well as get the action steps mentioned in the call done. Why wait until afterwards to check off your items in your to-do list? Using MURAL for meetings not only increases engagement, it accelerates your team's ability to coordinate and get things done in real time together.
For instance, the UX team at MURAL holds regular meetings to discuss designs and issues and upcoming projects. MURAL let’s each person capture notes from the meetings, along with images and comments from others.Meeting notes in MURAL
We all get stuck solving problems in our daily work. Sometimes it’s hard to grasp all of the parts of an issue at once. Mind mapping is a proven way to help you get unstuck quickly, getting all of your thoughts out visually to help you think through the toughest challenges.
Our brains are actually hardwired to think visually. Consider what world-renown neurosurgeon Anjan Chatterjee had to say about the power of visual thinking when we interviewed him in 2016. He contents:
“We have a limited working memory; we can only hold a few bits of information in mind at any one time. Externalizing them offloads working memory demands, and allows us to see relationships and combinations of relationships. An external spatial display compensates for an internal capacity limitation.”
Mind map in MURAL
Mind maps can either be a collaborative exercise, or you can create one on your own. We find mapping out all of your thoughts in one place helps you solve problems better in general.
Retrospectives are a key part of Agile techniques. After each sprint (usually 2 weeks long), the team comes together to review how well they performed. Each member of the team responds to three basic questions: What worked well? What did not work well? How do we improve going forward?
Learning is a key part of team collaboration, and retrospectives give project teams a chance to reflect on their work and recent past performance. When teams are co-located, retrospectives are typically done on a whiteboard or flipchart with sticky notes. Distributed teams can easily use MURAL to capture this activity.
You’ll find a Framework for retrospectives built right into MURAL. Just click into Frameworks on your tool pane, click Agile, then drag it out to get started. (They’re not just for Agile, by the way. You can a retrospective for any project or effort!)Example of a simple, quick retrospective
Events and General Planning
Many people use MURAL to plan events, everything from small meet ups to full-blown conferences. Set up a mural in advance and add to it as the planning of your event progresses. You’ll find it becomes a central “information radiator” that a whole team can refer to.
For instance, our own Customer Success team was recently planning a local meet up. They used MURAL to map out all the different aspects of the event, including information about the venue, marketing and promotion information (even text for social media), the agenda and presentation outline, refreshments and swag.
Each category had a separate row, and the team could add thoughts, text, images and links regularly over the course of about 2 months prior to the event.Planning an event in MURAL
We’ve even heard of people using MURAL for all kinds of personal event planning as well. Many use it for vacation planning. One customer used it to plan a move. Others have even planned weddings in MURAL. Why not?
Jim Kalbach is a noted author, speaker, and instructor in customer experience, experience design, digital transformation, and strategy.
July, 21 2017