The team newsletter – Extra work or a useful communication tool?

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”          – George Bernard Shaw

The team newsletter is a co-produced team communication platform. It is a Word-document including the following sections:

  1. Team highlights: Team members’ accomplishments and contributions to the team’s goals (High quality research, Industry relevance, Networked globally, Building broad and common understanding, Building inspiring work environment, and Excellent team spirit)
  2. Project news: Resourcing of the team, calls for funding instruments, projects under preparation, new funded and declined projects
  3. Upcoming events
  4. Current activities: Ongoing projects, team member activities, ended projects
  5. Publications
  6. Service science related conferences and journals

This tradition has been started in 2011. The need was obvious then as several team members were located in different countries and it was not so easy to keep track of what everyone was doing. Since then the newsletter’s format and content has been developed further, but it has remained a monthly activity in the team for everyone to update and share their knowledge to other team members also through this channel.

HiRes

The newsletter is available in the team SharePoint workspace. Before the end of the month the team leader reminds everyone by e-mail to update the file. The task in minimum is to fill in the “Team member activities” section’s personal part, where everyone writes down what has happened, what’s next, where, and what’s the boogie. Other sections are filled in if and when there is something to contribute.

As I started writing this post I asked the team members for honest opinions about what pros and cons there are in the newsletter. Not all team members’ opinions were received but here are the results of my short survey:

Pros:

  • In team meetings there is no need to go through one-by-one (in a list-like fashion) what every team member is currently doing, in which projects participating, etc. Team meetings can concentrate on other important matters and time is also saved to more relaxed gatherings
  • Makes you think what you have done and what you will be doing every month
  • Transparency of activities to all team members
  • Goals are visible and hence better remembered
  • One way to give positive feedback
  • Nice to read what everyone else is doing – either in more details or just to get a quick glance
  • Otherwise it would be difficult to know about more than a few of our team members’ work
  • A nice way to let the center leader, professors etc. to know about us and our doings
  • Communication between team members in distant locations
  • Documentation of what has been done before (possible to check things)
  • The co-creation aspect of the newsletter is saving the team leader’s time as those same activities should be recorded by him in a similar form every month anyway; this spares doing the individual “interviews”

Cons:

  • Difficult to avoid a boring layout and too many bullet points and other lists
  • Hard to remember to look the newsletter more than once in a month, i.e. when you update it yourself
  • Somewhat faceless
  • No interaction
  • No proof that someone actually has read what you have written…

The quote that started this post is in the core of the problem. It is easy to assume the value of the newsletter as a way of improving our communication – and in many ways it is. However, it is true that just having the information available does not guarantee it will be used. Maybe we will find new ways to develop this platform to better match our needs.

The fact that it has been used this long does implicate that we are doing something right. We will continue using this tool and reporting any major changes that might occur in the future.

Are you using anything similar for communication purposes in your group or team? What are your experiences?

2 thoughts on “The team newsletter – Extra work or a useful communication tool?

  1. Pingback: Lunch and other business | Service Science Odyssey

  2. Pingback: The Challenge of Collaboration: Team Newsletter | The Quest For Excellence

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s