Most of you will agree with me that collaboration has been one of the famous business buzzwords in the recent years. As business becomes increasingly global and cross-functional, silos are breaking down, connectivity is increasing, and teamwork is seen as a key to organizational success. Several organizations believe that face-to-face interaction among employees fosters a more collaborative culture. According to research data captured over the past two decades, the time spent by employees and their leaders in collaborative activities has risen by 50% or more.
In his book People Analytics, MIT visiting scientist Ben Waber discusses the role of dependencies for programmers, that teams must coordinate closely to ensure their code meshes well. Citing others’ research as well as his own, Waber argues remote programmers are 8% less likely than co-located groups to communicate about dependencies, which translates to 32% longer code completion times.
On the other side of the ledger, research done across more than 300 organizations by Rob Cross and team shows that the distribution of collaborative work is often extremely lopsided. In most cases, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees. As people become known for being both capable and willing to help, they are drawn into projects and roles of growing importance. Their giving mindset and desire to help others quickly enhances their performance and reputation. As a recent study led by Ning Li, of the University of Iowa, shows, a single “extra miler”—an employee who frequently contributes beyond the scope of his or her role—can drive team performance more than all the other members combined.
‘Time, Talent, Energy’ authors Eric Garton and Michael C. Mankins looked inside companies with high burnout rates, and saw three common culprits: excessive collaboration, weak time management disciplines, and a tendency to overload the most capable with too much work. These forces not only rob employees of time to concentrate on completing complex tasks or for idea generation, they also crunch the downtime that is necessary for restoration.
One of the proposed solutions is that by adopting agile principles, leaders can motivate and energize teams, and give individual team members a way to own the results. With Agile approaches, teams focus on fewer, more critical activities. Initiative backlogs are used to set priorities, and the team reprioritizes the list whenever they add new tasks. This provides a mechanism for sustained focus on the most important priorities and constant pruning of less important ones. Projects are time-boxed and focused so that there is more doing and less energy-draining process. Executives can also work on culture and coaching. Leaders can help establish new cultural norms around time and make clear that everyone’s time is a precious resource.
So, organizations should maintain the fine balance between collaboration and excessive collaboration. An effective collaboration environment definitely allows us to get closer to customers, accelerates problem solving, gain better understanding of customer needs, and respond quickly and consistently through the customer’s channel of choice. Rich collaboration capabilities also allow us to create innovative services for customers to promote satisfaction and build loyalty. More—and better— interaction can stimulate sales and growth.
Although in-person meetings are most effective, sometimes travel is too expensive or time-consuming. Rich video or voice conferencing solutions can bring the immediacy of in-person meetings to a packed schedule. Conferencing collaboration solutions extend your reach to more people, regardless of their locations. When it’s easier to collaborate, people tend to meet more frequently, thus strengthening relationships.
Collaboration promotes business. With access to the resources and information they need, employees are more engaged. And an engaged workforce is more productive, loyal, and satisfied.
As my employer puts it – ‘Bringing people together often means collaborating inside and outside of the organization. They brainstorm new ideas. Multiple points of view spark new ideas and offer new perspectives. And collaboration accelerates decision making. Empowering employees to work the way they want positions your company for faster and greater success.’
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