I've been exploring the factors that enable organizations to scale collaboration. In other words, if an organization doesn't have unlimited time and resources but wants to scale collaboration properly, what should it focus on?
In my last post, I laid out the premise that leading companies are scaling collaboration to foster innovation and achieve better results. I postulated that collaboration is not just the sharing of information; rather, it's the entire ecosystem that empowers teams to work efficiently and effectively to get the right things accomplished with minimal overhead.
In my research, I've identified five key factors that need to be considered to establish and scale collaboration:
Culture: Before an organization can embrace collaboration, people must clearly align with the organization's objectives and feel safe in their interactions with one another. True collaboration cannot exist when individuals are afraid of being criticized or penalized for taking calculated risks. Organizations must encourage staff members to embrace diverse perspectives, support open dialogue and accept difficult or unfavorable results.
Communications: In any collaboration, participants run the risk of communicating too much or too little. They may assume that those around them want to know all the details, or they may forget that others are not as deeply engaged.
This recalls the famous quote from Blaise Pascal, "I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter." Companies need to determine the precise amount of communication necessary to ensure that anyone can be made aware of the efforts, the progress and the challenges without having to devote considerable time and research to do so.
Protocols: As organizations grow, they often establish stringent processes and procedures to standardize results and maintain compliance. However well-meant, these can limit effective collaboration by injecting unnecessary bottlenecks into workstreams. A purposeful evaluation of key protocols will help remove control points that do not drive results.
Measures: How can companies determine when teams are collaborating on the right outcomes? For many years, members of the rock group Van Halen were viewed as prima donnas because of their insistence on a contractual rider requiring that concert venues provide a bowl of M&M'S in the band room, with the brown ones removed. Many years later the band shared the reason. With all the expensive equipment and dangerous pyrotechnics involved in a Van Halen performance, this was a simple and safe way to determine whether the terms of the contract had been followed. As an organization scales collaboration, simple indicators that shine a light on potential problems give the company the opportunity to make quick determinations about a project.
Coordination: To effectively collaborate, teams must be aligned with the objectives and have ready access to the tools, information and support needed to get the right work done. Often, technology will help in this effort, but care must be taken not to throw technology at the problem and expect resolution. Organizations need to assess the critical factors affecting coordination and resolve the factors that are creating problems.
Quick fixes will not pave the way for sustainable collaboration. Rather, a focused effort to assess the current state and define guiding principles that drive continuous improvement is critical to building a sustainably collaborative organization.