As organizations leverage the benefits of remote work, work tirelessly to break silos across different units and increase connectivity among distributed teams across the globe, cross collaboration is usually one of the elements which is brought up as a key element of the overall strategy as a mean to foster innovation, productivity and employee engagement.
Even though those facts might be true, sometimes, cross collaboration is baselined in a way that ends up overloading people with information and requiring their active engagement, input and participation, which ultimately starts turning into unhealthy collaboration, blurring the line between private and professional time, creating organizational bottlenecks and ultimately hurting overall performance.
We all agree that meetings, emails, inputs from key people and calls are needed, but…
Have you considered how much time you spend on unneeded -and usually recurring- meetings, emails and calls? Furthermore, have you considered the side effects that your organization or your team experience because of that?
There are few of them that comes to this Author’s mind:
– Giving up personal time to finish tasks – and entering a never-ending loop that becomes your day-to-day life – and ultimately feeling frustrated, burnt out and pressured to always ‘save the day’.
– Experiencing bottlenecks as the work is being left in some few key people’s hands across the organization which are also overloaded.
– Having a sense of monotony and overall lack of organizational innovation – always leaving the design and decisions into few people’s hands, might also cause a lack of new or different ideas to come into play, following the double-side sword approach of ’Why changing something that apparently works ok?’ or ‘We have always done it like this and it works, we don’t need new ideas’ or ‘I cannot proceed without my boss approval’, which ultimately ends up impacting employee morale and hindering the organization from being innovative and diverse.
What can we do to cross collaborate in a healthy and efficient way?
Identify and reframe beliefs –
Analyze your work dynamics – How much do you or your team members spend on meetings vs how much you spend on solo work? How much time do we spend waiting for approvals and/or reviews?
Target those individuals that might suffer from collaborative overload and support them on prioritizing, accordingly, redistribute time allocation (or kindly say No I can’t – but we will find someone that can) and analyze if it’s really a pattern among those individuals that might justify leveraging a tool to make that workflow easier. Suggest them to invest their time on tasks that energize rather than drain them and help them understanding their purpose by some simple questions:
– What is needed from me? Where do I add value and where I really do not? Do I feel better when I work solo, mentor/coach other people, provide training?
– How can I make my work more efficiently? Is there something I can automate or set up a tool that makes the job easier?
Work on common agreements and accepted behaviors –
Now that we’ve ‘Helped the Helpers’ it’s time for also supporting the ‘Help Seekers’ by establishing some cooperation agreements and communication policies.
The action spectrum here is big and might vary according to the organizational culture, but we mention some general tips:
Meetings: Recurring meetings organization, basic checklist of how to initiate and set up effective meetings (agenda, objectives, participants, take away/follow up actions)
Specific Support/Input request: Streamline input or support requests, guidelines on CCs/Reply All emails, priorities and SLAs.
Decision making and empowerment: Can we empower employees by establishing decision thresholds? Is there some way we can exchange our resources and make decisions more efficiently?
Resource allocation: How much time my team spends on meetings? Which kind of meetings? What about solo vs collaborative work?
Always bear in mind that it’s not about putting the organization upside down, as that might disrupt our daily operations, but to do small changes and start step by step to promote and establish healthy agreements.
Reward effective collaborators
What makes us consider an individual an effective collaborator?
Are our top performers real collaborators – the ones that are rising by lifting others – or just individual achievers – the ones that only hitting their targets, getting the reward and not really helping anyone -, or a mix of both?
Ideally, we should strive to reward people who do both. In this way, we will also be able to identify employees who impact our organization not by their position or formal authority but by their influence in other people, usually by sharing resources and simply providing help.
Make information flow seamlessly
Leverage the use of collaboration tools and different technologies to make information accessible and transparent, creating a ‘Sharing is caring’ culture (always taking into consideration data privacy and information security limitations 😊) among individuals to foster collaboration and information flow among different business units and teams.
The aim is to empower individuals so that they set up quality collaboration networks.
Champion the agreements and accepted behaviors
Enforcing new ways of working in a formal and structured way supports the organization BUT, what is more important is to create awareness of their existence and support their ongoing implementation by coaching, mentoring and training your employees.
Sometimes, more is not always the best solution. That’s why it’s crucial to find a cross collaboration strategy that might suit your organizational needs and at the same time, result on happier and more energized employees, ready to take your business to infinity and beyond.
Are you wondering how can you make your teams collaborate in a functional way? Contact our Virtual ACE © (Agility Center of Excellence) Team!