The narrative of teamwork and collaboration is incredibly strong in the social business world. There’s an almost inbuilt assumption that when we work in teams, via of course social and collaborative tools, that better results are the inevitable by-product.
It’s not always the case however. Research from Global Integration showed that an over-reliance on team working can cost up to $20,000 per year for each professional employee in the company.
They asked around 1,600 people about their experiences of working in teams, and the responses should be an eye opener for anyone pushing teams as the panacea.
Firstly though, lets set the scene of what a team meant in this sample. Teams were on average 12 strong, with participants spending 38% of their work time in meetings (of which just under half of the content was relevant to them). Team members received an average of 58 e-mails per day, of which 57% were not helpful to their work.
For instance, during meetings of senior managers, they would typically run through the performance of each functional and geographic unit. Whilst the reviews may have been useful for the manager responsible for it all, for the remainder it left a large chunk of time being wasted listening to reports of little interest to them.
The last few decades have seen organisations strive to become ‘leaner’ and more efficient, yet it seems that in the desire to become more collaborative that this has gone out of the window. Few process people would be happy with something that saw 50% redundancy, yet many of our team related endeavours do just that.
So, what is the answer?
To begin with, you need to decide on the focus of your collaboration. What is it you want to achieve, and how can you measure whether you’re achieving that.
Here are three possible outcomes for your collaborative efforts.
Collaborative idea #1 – More sales
This one should be an obvious outcome for any business, but it often flies under the radar when it comes to collaboration. After all, collaboration is the creation of new ideas and products, right? Not always. Think about whether you can collaborate with other departments within your organisation to cross-sell your products to their customers.
When the sales teams across your organisation start to collaborate in this way it can give revenues a real kick. The problem of course is that many sales people are stuck in siloed thinking, with their commissions linked purely to their own sales. If managers can overcome this however, it can be very valuable indeed, and of course it’s a pretty easy thing to measure.
Collaborative idea #2 – More innovation
This one is a more common use for collaboration, but it still has the one crucial element for any successful program – an end product. With innovation in mind, this idea requires that product development teams from across your company work together to see how they can apply their own expertise in new ways. Remember that most new products aren’t truly revolutionary, but are merely old technologies applied in new ways, so if you can tap into the expertise throughout your organisation, this could give your product development a significant boost. Once again, measurement is quite straightforward.
Collaborative idea #3 – Better processes
Organisations typically improve by selling more, improving profit margins or reducing costs. It’s this third purpose that is the aim for this form of collaboration. It again suggests that greater communication and knowledge sharing can be done across the enterprise, but rather than sharing knowledge to sell more or create new products, we are instead interested in making our processes more efficient, and therefore saving money. With sound benchmarking of processes this kind of improvement can also be measured reasonably easily. So three simple ways to collaborate and have some measurable gains (hopefully) at the end of it all.