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.

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