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April 20, 2015

Is Bad Collaboration Hurting Your Potential for Success? Here’s How to Maintain the Cohesion

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Mattie Stepanek, one of the youngest American poets, once said, “Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”

When two or more people are working together toward shared goals, collaboration happens. Considering the modern enterprises, we see that collaboration is a fundamental part of the overall workflow and leaders will need to foster it, no matter if it’s across the organizational boundaries or across departments. Why? Because in order to achieve growth through innovation and efficiency, productive enterprise collaboration is required.

Compared to those traditional hierarchical structures, modern enterprises have gone matrixed. Team members are working on inter-departmental projects which means they have to report to multiple managers. Though this kind of organizational structure fosters better innovation, sharing and decision making, it brings with it a few drawbacks as well.

For example, a company needs to invest more in bringing individuals across different teams. Further, people might find it difficult to relate to each other being from different departments. And if tools are deployed without taking into account users’ work routines, enterprise collaboration is fated to failure and results in poor collaboration in several forms — from oral miscommunication, to endless meetings, to long e-mail threads. This only creates chaos and clutter and affects the productivity of the team.

Here in this post, we’ll be looking at some effective ways to solve the problem of poor collaboration so that your team’s cohesion is maintained.

1. Set clear goals: From the beginning itself, you should know when and where you need to reach — it will help your team to establish a common mindset. Research has shown that teams who started with a clear purpose were more successful than those with unclear goals. This creates a simple workflow and helps in making decisions faster. In a survey done by IBM on 1,500 management executives, the biggest barriers to project success was people changing their mindsets and attitudes.

2. Understand your team: Being the team leader, it is important for you to understand and support the goals of your team members, besides being clear about your own goals. You should also be aware of how to align these goals to achieve the best possible results. A company’s or manager’s ability to administer rapid innovation through excellent internal and external collaborative networks makes all the difference. As traced by professor Morten Hansen from University of California, Berkeley, in one of his books, When Apple’s iPod was launched, it received a heartwarming welcome. On the other hand, Sony’s release of MP3 was not received as well. Reason? Sony encouraged internal competition over collaboration, whereas Apple’s ability to manage its collaborative networks paid off.

3. Stick to real deadlines: Being overly optimistic about work can cause disappointments and conflicts. Analyzing the time you have for what has to be achieved and scheduling it realistically is far better. Collaboration tools can help you keep everyone on the same page.

4. Avoid frequent meetings: Meetings are evil, yes they are! Especially when a quick 15-minute meeting lingers on to two hours and wastes the time of those involved in it. Though meetings can never be eliminated totally but, you can seek better ways such as conducting online meetings in which team members can easily participate without being bound to place and time.

5. Say no to e-mailing: In a study, done by KPMG, it was found that the way in which information is spread from one point to another, has a huge impact on collaboration. More than two in 10 users expressed that poor communication channels are a huge problem. E-mail is cruel, especially when you become a ‘victim’ because someone just hit the “reply all” button, though the mail was actually meant for two people. Also, with those long e-mail threads, important messages get buried and lose their significance. A better way is to look for an e-mail alternative or create a separate workspace for individual projects so that only relevant people get involved in it.

6. Lead but follow as well: Being a collaborative leader, you should know when your team needs your supervision and when others from the team can take the leadership role. At times, they are the ones who can better push things forward because everyone excels in different areas. Specify the roles from the beginning of the project so team members feel motivated about their work.

7. Choose technology wisely: In a survey by Avanade, it was found that social networking enterprise tools were used by around 70 to 90 percent of users. However, it reported the majority of them were still dissatisfied with these tools and demanded more collaboration capabilities. Consider the work routine and methodologies of your team before you deploy any software to help them better collaborate.

Don’t expect results too quickly. It can take time but, if done the right way, it can help spur growth, innovation and creativity, which is ultimately beneficial for your company.


Kanika Sharma works as a writer at ProofHub. For the past two years, she has been writing for various technology blogs. Being an engineering graduate, her background allows her to connect with cutting edge technologies and relate them to real world scenarios. Follow Kanika on Twitter to know more about her.