Saturday, December 17, 2011

If Collaboration is So Great why Doesn't It Happen?

Why is collaboration an underused tool in spite of its proven benefits?  As a partial answer, here's an article (based on a survey) from Human Resource Executive Online.

Key points:
1) Typical organizational structures inhibit collaboration - hierarchy, silos, divisions, departments, groups, etc....
2) Employees lack skills to improve project and initiative collaboration - even if they do have the opportunity to work better together employees don't know how to effectively brainstorm and share ideas, agree on ideas, and take them from conception to implementation.
3) Some best practices:  increase freedom for employees to pursue solutions, eliminate rigid organizational structures, provide training on project collaboration skills.  (See related post on the KSAs for teams)
4) Steps to foster collaboration:  ensure the management team supports it and shows their support, foster trust (psychological safety) which increases idea sharing, allow employees to take ownership of new ideas and initiatives and hold them accountable,  train employees on discussion and dialogue techniques for better idea sharing (Click here to understand the difference).
5) Management must model the collaboration they wish to see in employees....this means not talking negatively about other departments, not trying to 'go it alone', and instead showing through words and actions that the success of the organization depends on the entire organization working together, showing how the department contributes to the overall organization goal.
6) As employees gain increased autonomy, ownership, and accountability allow them to experiment with new tools and ways of working.
7) Support a culture of learning rather than a focus on mistakes.  If employees don't feel safe to mistakes, they won't feel safe trying new ways of working and they won't feel safe working better together.

Friday, December 16, 2011


In the book Work Based Learning: Bridging Knowledge and Action in the Workplace, Joseph A. Raelin writes about the importance of reflection for professional growth. Before we go any further, let's stop for a minute and think about how often you reflect while at work?  Is there a 'culture of reflection'? Does your boss encourage reflection?

Raelin contends that a "work team becomes a learning team when it spends time clarifying it’s thought before and after action."  Think back to the last time you worked on a team project.  Prior to each team meeting did you all explore your thoughts?  After the meeting did you discuss how productive you were?  What could have been done differently?  Did everyone feel included?  Did everyone have an opportunity to contribute?  Were questions thoroughly addressed?

In this super busy world, taking the time to reflect on our progress and effectiveness may seem like a luxury we don't have.  Really though it's a necessity we can't afford to do without.    As competition increases, those organizations that take time to reflect and improve performance based on reflection will have the advantage.