In part one of Collaborating with Others, I discussed two levers that impact collaboration; physical space, and online tools. Physical space had mixed reviews in terms of how well it encouraged collaboration, some found it to be less conducive to cooperation, while others liked the open space concept to promote teamwork.
Online collaboration was generally positively received and found to be good for organizations from a profit, efficiency, and worker satisfaction point of view.
Now that COVID has people working from home, there isn’t the same access to quick “water cooler conversations” that happened when people worked in the office. Even if the chitchat around the water cooler was mostly catch-up conversations.
Before you dismiss water cooler conversations as irrelevant, consider the benefit they provide. They allow you to get to know co-workers on a more personal level so that making a connection and collaborating become easier to do. The new work from home environment is causing organizations to look for ways to improve cooperative teamwork.
The Collaboration Lever: Governance and Culture
According to a 2014 Deloitte report on collaboration in Australia, there are three levers for successful collaboration: workspace redesign, technological tools, and governance and culture. The first two are covered in Part 1.
Lever 3: Governance and Culture
The governance and culture of an organization determines how successful collaboration will be.
The Deloitte report defined governance and culture as having the following elements:
- Social interactions: How often are there social interactions between colleagues?
- Empowering the individual: Are opinions of individuals valued in the organization?
- Incentives and rewards: Is collaboration considered when evaluating individual performance, remuneration and promotion?
- Diversity and intensity of interactions in workplace: Do employees collaborate or interact with employees outside their normal circle, and with employees with different roles and responsibilities?
- Collaboration strategy: How important is collaboration in the overall business strategy of the organization?
- Workplace hierarchy: Is the management structure conducive to collaboration?
The Right Stuff for Effective Collaboration
According to Forbes, organizations promoting collaboration were more likely to be high performing. As a result, employees improved their quality of work, innovation, and overall job satisfaction.
In other research, businesses with a collaboration strategy were twice as likely to outgrow their competitors.
As much as governance and culture may have a role in collaboration, ultimately the ability to collaborate or not, comes down to the individual involved because:
- Personality conflicts get in the way
- Participants avoid difficult conversations
- People are too formal and polite, and may not be honest in their discussions
- There are trust issues
- Leadership roles may be confusing when working in a collaborative context
- Some people don’t know how to collaborate
The right ingredients for effective collaboration include:
- Identifying the purpose of the project, including guiding principles and non-negotiables
- Getting the right people involved. This includes ensuring a wide range of expertise and knowledge amongst the group. For example, including, decision makers, those with expertise, those who-must implement, have a stake in the outcome, and can discuss the consequences of actions being proposed. Membership in the group may vary through the project.
- Building trust and psychological safety
- Developing a plan at a strategic/system level, but ensuring that it can be implemented
- Coordinating existing activities
Google looked at high-performing teams and found that they have high levels of “psychological safety.” Amy Edmondson, Harvard Business School professor, described it as a
‘‘shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking,’’ and ‘‘a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up … It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.’’
Psychological Safety: Personal vs Transactional Relationships
So how do you build a climate of psychological safety? One way is through the development of personal relationships rather than transactional relationships.
To build a personal relationship:
- Value people: Be interested in the other person and value what they bring to work.
- Create a bond: Get to know your colleagues on a personal level, show that you care about them and want to get to know them more than just a project buddy.
- Understand one another’s priorities and challenges. Be interested in the other person and their perspective on the project by asking open ended questions like:
- Tell me about some successes since our last meeting?
- What are your big priorities right now and over the next month?
- What are some challenges that you are concerned about?
- How can I be helpful?
- What could I and my team do to be easier to work with?
- Communicate regularly, even if there is no “urgent” topic to discuss. and keep everyone in the loop. Schedule regular meetings to catch up (weekly, biweekly, monthly).
- Trust and commit to success.
In a transactional relationship:
- In a transactional relationship you need something from the other person. For example, if you have a human resource question, you contact human resources and get an answer to your question. No further communication is needed. These interactions are temporary or limited. The concern with transactional relationships is that:
- Resentment can develop over time as people may feel used-no one likes to feel used
- You may not get a response to your request
According to the Deloitte report, effective collaboration can result in employees:
- Working 15% faster on average and producing better quality work
- Being more innovative, and
- 56% are more satisfied with their work
Businesses with a collaborative strategy are:
- Twice as likely to outgrow their competitors
- More likely to improve their profit.
- Acquire cost savings associated with collaborative work
Collaboration is here to stay, so get onboard!
Let me know how your organization collaborates.
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