Work Out Loud Behaviors: Considering Downstream Impacts of Collab Decisions

A common phrase you hear from people when trying to convince them to adopt new behaviors is WIIFM…”What’s In It for Me?”. While I’m not a fan of that mindset, personally, I understand why it’s important to help people get it. But I’ll come back to that.

I tend to lean more toward the WIIFE approach…”What’s In It for Everyone?” Unfortunately I just realized that my acronym spells “wife”…and that was totally unintentional and could get awkward depending on where I go with this. TheBrycesWife might be reading. Tread lightly…Bryce…tread lightly… 🙂

Put another way, most people ask about how to conduct their work & collaboration activities in a way that makes it as easy as possible for them…to save them time right now. But when we lead with that approach, what opportunities for future value are we sabatoging as a result? Are we making decisions that actively consider and understand the downstream impacts of how we create, share & collaborate, rather than the immediate benefits? Or do we typically favor immediate value over potential value?


Working Out Loud requires a mindset that you let go of WIIFM when you work. A mindset of actively making WIIFE decisions (there I go again) about how we are collaborating with others, and being very conscious of who “the others” could be downstream (LOST reference – 4815162342). It means that first and foremost in our work behaviors we are considering the downstream impacts  of what we share, how we share, where we share and when we share…to our immediate co-workers and our overall organization and our expertise communities and to OURSELVES.

And Working Out Loud with the downstream in mind means being aware enough to make trade-off decisions right now to enable the opportunities later. I could save myself 5 minutes of effort on a task right now by choosing to do it the WIIFM way, OR, I could WIIFE it…create it and share it in a way that it has the potential to save a collective of both known and unknown people multiple hours in future. To create additional future opportunities because it was easily discoverable, reusable and shareable beyond it’s original intent.

I see these examples play out every day, both positive examples, and examples that are ripe for repairing “a lost opportunity”. I want to do a better job of sharing examples I see as real life use cases occurs, and generically share those as “teaching moments.”
First example (which prompted me to write this post) is something you see play out every single day. And you can’t blame any one person for doing it because EVERYONE does it and has done it this way for years in many places. I’m sure you’ve seen it happen in the last month as well. But there’s a better way…

WIIFM Approach: Team needs a reference about the expectations and logistics for filling out the standard project status report in the standard project tracking tool on a weekly basis. So the Project Manager sends the entire team a PPT attachment in email with those instructions, images, etc.

WIIFM Reasoning: It was quick and easy for the PM to send that email and grab the attachment off their private hard drive/storage location. Then add some names to the email. Send. Task completed. That was easy. Move on to the next thing.

WIIFM Lost Opportunities:

  • Each team member has to keep that file in their email for future reference, eating up email quota…or pull to their own local storage for future reference. But the PM saved 5 minutes.
  • If there is turnover in the team, or new projects with new project leaders that weren’t on the email, new team members won’t be able to discover or retrieve that helpful resource easily, or someone else will have to dig it out to share with them in the future…if they can remember where it was. But the PM saved 5 minutes.
  • If something changes in the tools & processes, the PM must sent out a new copy with the updates. More space. Now you’ve got different copies flying all over the place and recipients my end up getting the current appropriate versions confused within their own local storage tools. But the PM saved 5 minutes.
  • Other PMs running projects outside of your team may have the same needs to share the same info or similar info with their team, and would have no way of ever knowing that such a helpful resource exists to help their teams use the project status tracking tool. But the PM saved 5 minutes.

WIIFE Approach: PM shares the resource file in a shared folder / community that all team members have access to as part of being on the team. The PM adds a static link to the resource on the team’s main collaboration hub site to be the primary point of “locating” that file in the future. And stores it in a way that the file is discoverable through the most common search & browse interfaces the team uses on a daily basis. Then, assuming not all the team have “notifications” turned on to where this was shared, the PM sends and email to the team with a link to the new resource where it resides. (+5 minutes for PM…maybe…probably not. But this is where the “tools matter too” makes an appearance as part of the “it’s not about the tools” conversation. Another post for another day.)

WIIFE Reasoning:  It took a little extra time for the PM, but the potential benefits to the team for having that as a consistent reference going forward is worth the effort…so they can focus their time on getting the work done on the projects, rather than hunting and pecking to locate the reference file again down the road.

WIIFE Reaslized Opportunities:

  • No need to keep the email from the PM, it saves email space, and no worries about using email as a home for any type of meaningful work content. It was just a notification to create awareness that a new resource exists in a collaboration area / folders, AND that a link has been added in that area so all team members can easily navigate to it in the future. WIIFM: Team members are appreciative to the PM for having an easy to locate resource for future reference. They reduce the “looking for stuff” distraction later.
  • As new members join the team or new people that weren’t on the email need to use the project status tracking tool, the link is there for continued reference and no need to bother other team members of the PM to dig it up again and send it in another email. WIIFM: PM saves time in the future from people constantly asking for a copy of the resource, and eliminating the need to locate and email again over and over because someone lost it or was not on the original email.
  • If something changes, you don’t have to worry about multiple copies of the older version flying around, and you don’t have to redistribute copies to everyone for them to keep locally. You just update the source where it lies, and from now forward, that some link people know and love as their place to find the reference is still the most current and helpful resources to complete the status report task in the right way. WIIFM: As a PM, I don’t have to play referee when people have outdated resources or get confused about where to find the latest information and come back to the PM for help.
  • Because the PM shared it in a project area that is targeted to the team but ALSO open to the entire organization, that content is discoverable via the most common organizational search engines…making it discoverable and reusable by other PMs that are using the same organizational status tracking tool…and to which those PMs can point their own teams for a good point of reference. WIIFM: The PM gets some public reputation points, from other PMs and management appreciative for the knowledge sharing and for enabling reuse and saving them time and trouble as a result. OR, other PMs may jump in with their own best practices and helpful suggestions to make the process easier for any and all using the same sets of tools and processes…helping the team of the PM that originally shared the resource. 

So taking the hypothetical 5 minutes to adopt a WIIFE behavior instead of a WIIFM behavior not only considers the downstream impacts of our choices, but returns even greater overall savings throughout an organization than the originally donated 5 minutes of time. 

Luckily WIIFM does eventually make an appearance…it just happens further downstream for the PM, and not just during one short moment, but in a continual and more impactful manner. By building up appreciation from others and a reputation for being helpful, making lives easier for peers, being generous, and by putting your skills and knowledge on display to emerge as a thought leader and expert on various topics…to garner more respect from your peers that see and respect how you approach your work. And you’re planting Roots!

That’s our primary challenge as WOL coaches and practitioners…to help those around us to think more about the downstream impacts of their collaboration decisions than the impact to themselves in the moment. To encourage shifts in behavior toward the WIIFE mindset with examples, stories and by suggesting effective alternatives to the predominant work mindset of WIIFM.

6 thoughts on “Work Out Loud Behaviors: Considering Downstream Impacts of Collab Decisions

  1. I love the WIIFE acronym! It fits this usage very well. Because wives are thinking about others and taking a little extra time and attention now to save effort and spinning wheels in the future. 🙂

  2. All great points Bryce! However, don’t overlook other cultural components that come into play that influence these behaviors. Many organizations have been downsized to the point that there is a lone subject matter expert for a particular area. You would think that would be an incentive for increased sharing but often the opposite happens. It’s not too hard to understand when you think of Maslow’s hierarchy. Downsizing has resulted in people being more concerned about the job security (safety). They see their specialized knowledge as a source of power. If I’m the only one who knows how to do X, then I will be safe when the next round of cuts comes. This ultimately leads to people being less likely to want to share. Then if you add the additional obstacle of taking more time up front, it’s no wonder why people may not embrace the WIIFE approach. (by the way, I love that acronym. .

  3. You describe very well what I’ve been thinking about regularly. I ‘m reasoning in terms of Personal Information Mgt vs Team I.M. and came to the same conclusions. Since my team has started practicing ‘Extreme Working Out Loud’, everybody feels the power of WIIFE daily.

  4. Often there’s a time dimension we don’t consider. WIIFE can also sometimes be WIIFFM — What’s In It For Future Me, as opposed to what’s in it for me right now.

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