While 2015 demonstrated a marked effort to enhance technology adoption for teams, workplaces today still reflect a severe case of information overload across siloes.
Email, instant messaging, conferencing and other communications solutions may have improved our ability to stay in touch with coworkers, partners and customers, but at the same time, these workplace tools have severely limited our productivity. Teams now need to determine which tools to use, and when:
Should I chat? Can I send a quick email? Do I need a meeting to address this issue? All these options may be taking away from actual progress on the initiative at hand.
As we move forward in 2016, there is a major tenet that still needs attention: collaboration, and its lack. Collaboration is a frequently used bucket term, but it’s still important. We need to take a step back and ask what causes its absence: Inefficiency? Company culture? Technology? (Or the lack thereof?)
Regardless of the cause, inefficiency creates a collaboration deficit, which in turn leads to a loss of productivity. And that’s a major challenge for any company, especially one trying to meet key 2016 goals.
Employees at all levels of the organization -- even the C-suite -- can become out of sync, contradicting one other and duplicating efforts. The result: diminished outcomes, a longer time to market and decreased revenue. Employee dissatisfaction from these misalignments can also cause turnover.
Certainly, there’s no magic wand for gaining back lost productivity and recouping revenue. It’s not as easy as telling your management team, “Let’s increase productivity.” Instead, the answer comes through empowering a collaborative-enterprise workplace, with growth as the major goal.
Here are some best practices I've used myself as CEO to empower teams to create a collaborative workplace:
1. Hammer out a collective vision with key stakeholders.
As mentioned, there’s no magic wand for collaboration. That requires buy-in from your entire management team to not only participate, but also empower their own teams to participate. Leaders need to set clear goals that guide team members for moves they should be considering.
As your teams brainstorm, members should ask questions that are broad ( “What are the goals of each process?" "Are they being met?" and, "How are our current processes making us lose money and affecting our quarterly results?”).
Also needed are questions that are more specific (“What if we could do this particular process twice as fast?” and “Are there steps we can eliminate in the process?”)
The answers will help you establish the collective vision you need and set the stage for successful implementation of new processes that can engage everyone in a company-wide synergy.
2. Create an atmosphere of transparency and accountability.
Transparency and accountability across teams is critical to discovering how a lack of collaboration impacts your company’s productivity and revenue. Teams need a clear way to see -- in real time -- who is working on what, where they are in the process and how they are adhering to deadlines.
Transparency will help managers evaluate workloads, assign tasks and drive projects toward completion. A leader may even find that goals are being met sooner when teams are on the same page. At the same time, transparency fosters a culture of accountability among team members.
Giving teams self-led methods that allow their colleagues and their managers to witness these tasks offers a way to demonstrate value. Accountability leads, ultimately, to increased leadership opportunities within an organization, allowing for enhanced employee satisfaction and retention.
3. Monitor and adjust based on results.
Creating a collaborative environment is always a work in process. Leaders may feel they've made great strides with their first efforts and be tempted to take some time off before implementing the next step or initiative. But: they shouldn't.
Instead, they should build in opportunities to review feedback generated by the implementation of new practices and technology -- and not put the foot on the brakes.
This is the time to look at what’s working, identify the teams in the company that are leading the pack and get their members to open up about the benefits and real results they’re seeing from these new processes -- then share those results across the enterprise. Such sharing is a great way to review any roadblocks -- even at the C-suite level -- that may be hampering progress.
It’s those results that will have a positive trickle-down effect. Once executives are having conversations about productivity, and ways to boost it, that’s going to trickle down to other teams. One thing to keep in mind is that you never know where the next great idea is going to come from. So, pay attention to anyone who has an idea about how to improve a process. Make it clear to teams that ideas will be taken seriously, implemented when feasible and rewarded when demonstrably effective.
Lack of collaboration does not need to impact your company in 2016, but it requires taking a hard look at the systems and workplace-culture issues that are impeding progress. The point is to work toward buy-in from key stakeholders and to inspire the revelation that certain things need to change. Being open to how they change is the mark of great leadership.