Collaborative Teams

Friday, 11 January 2019

Many collaborative teams work together frequently but can spin off to other projects and collaborations when necessary. Building collaboration into teams allows team members to push each other to perform, give each other insights, and even help develop each other as professionals.

With the move to agile business practices (or activity-based working) and work environments, it’s important to review whether your organisation is supporting collaboration. With fewer constraints and more flexibility, the focus shifts from where tasks are physically undertaken to performance and quality of outputs. Agile working looks at work as an activity rather than a place of work and it focuses on eliminating barriers which stand in the way of objectives being achieved. Not only does agile working offer employees more flexibility in today’s office environments, but it also:

• Gives employees the freedom to work in the best location, utilising their time and resources most efficiently;

• Reduces the amount of time spent travelling, by not having to always return to their desk to work productively;

• Employs recent technological developments to improve efficiency and creativity, e.g., individually kitted-out workspaces for specific work needs, like brainstorm and presentation rooms;

• Allows individuals and teams to work closely with one another, improving cross collaboration on tasks;

• Gives workers the freedom to develop new, non-traditional working practices that can improve the way the business operates, e.g., by spending less time in the office, teams have more time to spend with their clients;

• Encourages teamwork in a more open, collaborative space - which can do wonders for communication and trust across the team too.

SIX WAYS TO FACILITATE TEAMS WORKING COLLABORATIVELY

A recent Fast Company article outlined the following six steps to collaborative work.

1. Don’t build all-star teams for key projects.

According to Bryant University professor of management Michael Roberto, when there are too many ‘A players’ on a team, egos can get in the way. He suggests thinking carefully about the roles you need to fill and selecting team members with complementary skills and capabilities.

2. Choose a unifying problem.

Iwan Jenkins, president of leadership consultants The Riot Point, says your goal, objective, or strategy should match the ‘DNA’ of the team members. When all the team members are invested in the outcome, they’ll be more motivated to work together, he says.

3. Be specific in your instructions.

Collaboration can be a struggle when expectations are unclear, says Kate Zabriskie, founder of the leadership development firm Business Training Works. She recommends telling your employees how you want them to work together.

4. Make sure each team member benefits.

Every person should be better as a result of working on a project and when they experience this it augers well for future collaboration.

5. Use techniques that broaden participation.

Professor Roberto says leaders should work diligently to solicit ideas from all employees. One way to do this is through surveying staff on their thoughts on how a project is working—both during and post completion. Organisations are increasingly turning to systems that allow them to ‘crowd source’ input from employees as to how projects and initiatives are progressing. This gives a voice to quieter members who may have some real feedback and insights but may be reticent to speak out through more formal channels. It also harnesses people’s investment in their contribution across the broader working environment (e.g., business processes, project planning, strategy, leadership internal communication, etc).

It is becoming increasingly important to ‘take the pulse’ of individual teams on initiatives and projects as they progress across all facets of business. This is a key factor in promoting collaboration in teams and between teams. Employees are asked to give honest feedback and the anonymity of their input encourages more direct and honest feedback which, in turn, leads to actionable insights, often with a direct bottom line impact.

6. Don’t praise everyone equally for vastly different amounts of effort.

Author Gina DeLapa says it can be painful to watch a well-intentioned boss praise an entire team equally, especially when one person has shouldered more of the work. This can create a huge disconnect, especially when it happens repeatedly, she says. Is your organisation supporting people to work to the best of their abilities? Here’s some food for thought and a last word from Caroline Boyce, a workspace change management expert with Lend Lease: “You can design an intuitive agile workplace with all kinds of great opportunities for collaboration, but that’s not enough to make organic change happen. People may be opposed to collaboration for a variety of reasons. There needs to be intervention to encourage the business to shift in that direction.”