Organizations are recognizing that effective collaboration is critical to future business success. Collaboration is the process of working together as a team to accomplish a common goal. The process requires an attitude of sharing and willingness to help without an agenda. In today’s workplace environment, more and more projects are team efforts, and businesses need individuals who know how to work well with others.
But you can’t expect people to learn how to work in groups simply by putting them in groups. Plenty of people have been assigned to group work for decades, but still don’t know how to be an effective group member. There are certain things that must be in place in order for collaborative initiatives to be successful.
Here are five prerequisites that provide a foundation for effective collaboration.
1. Desire to Achieve Business Results. Collaboration is not a business end in itself. It is a means to an end, and that end is better business results. Collaboration should focus on where it can have the biggest impact on achieving business results. This typically includes those parts of the business where there is lots of dynamic information, where decisions are complex, and where the decisions have far-reaching consequences. Collaboration shouldn’t be forced into every discussion, dialogue, and decision if it isn’t warranted to get the desired results.
2. Shared Decision Making. Collaborating doesn’t mean that everyone gets to decide. On the contrary, it means that the authority to make critical decisions is aligned with the information required to make them. That means the right information must be made available to the right decision makers at the right time. In companies where individuals routinely hoard information and where information is power, collaboration can be a real challenge. Collaboration includes shared responsibility for key decisions. Members of a team must divide work and learn to share decision making about the activities they are undertaking.
3. Shared Accountability. Collaboration includes shared accountability for outcomes. If team members share key decisions, they must also share accountability for the results of the decisions. It may seem a paradox to some that collaboration requires ownership, but the reality of organizational life will always be based on ownership: of information that needs to be shared, of a dialogue that needs to be started, and of a decision that needs to be made. A supporting collaboration technology should be employed to promote ownership of these things.
4. Refine Communication Skills. As a collaborative team member, you will need effective communication and interpersonal skills. In addition to asking questions, making statements in clear and concise ways, attending to non-verbal signals, and listening, you must also learn to conduct effective meetings, respond to resistance, resolve conflict, and persuade others. These are some of the traits that prepare team members for successful collaborative work.
5. Design Flexible Organizations. In today’s information-based economy, companies must learn to be attentive, responsive, and adaptive to the environment. Being able to sense and respond to change requires a hybrid organization – one that blends an efficient hierarchy with flexible networks empowered to make decisions. Collaboration is the glue that holds the hybrid organization together and delivers the best business results in fast-changing environments.