THE BLOG

What Is Collaboration at Work?

07/24/2014 07:58 pm ET | Updated Sep 23, 2014

Collaboration at work is both simple and challenging.

Collaboration is simple when you consider collaboration requires people to work in teams as they achieve agreed upon objectives.

Collaboration is challenging when you consider collaboration requires a work environment that is fundamentally different from the vertical, hierarchical structure most businesses have operated for the last 50-plus years. The work environment and business leaders must help employees with varying abilities/experience to work in flexible, dynamic teams and to respectfully share information, decision-making, responsibility, learning and recognition.

To generalize about how collaboration will be viewed by employees, Baby Boomers are familiar with vertical, hierarchical business structures; most Millennials and Gen Z have grown up in collaborative team-based environments sharing decision-making, knowledge and recognition, while Gen X fall somewhere in between. Generational familiarity is very important as we consider that the number of Millennials in the workforce will soon exceed the number of Baby Boomers... and the organizations that will succeed are the organizations that are preparing now by changing reward structures and educating employees (of all ages), to work in this shared... flexible, dynamic work environment.

Collaboration Requirements

Senior executive support is required because collaboration and the support of high-performance teams means a change to horizontal decision-making, reporting and reward/recognition structures.

5 Benefits Of A Collaborative Environment

The benefits of a collaborative work environment are significant. In collaborative organizations solutions are almost always:

1. Faster To Market:

  • Collaboration is a way to speed up product development without losing control or falling behind schedule.
2. Cost Effective:

  • More planning and agreement by stakeholders at the front end of a project means fewer mistakes and more direct routs to success.
3. More Creative:

  • A collaborative team environment lets every stakeholder draw on their unique talents and experience to share market-leading solutions in reference to project objective and goals.
4. More Competitive:

  • Collaboration is a way to get to market faster while being more responsive to customer needs.
5. Build Customer Loyalty and Brand Value Organically:

  • Innovative solutions that exceed customer expectations builds your brand and get your customers / prospects wanting to do business with you.

5 Barriers To A Collaborative Environment

1. Employee Alignment:

  • It's far too easy to keep doing what's been done in the past. A well-implemented, well-trained and supported team will know how to work together and how to align their efforts around the company mission and value statements.
2. Decision Making:

  • Collaborative team members must actively recognize it is their responsibility to come to consensus. Only if the team cannot come to agreement within the given timeframe should the Leader be expected to make a project-related decision.
3. Documentation:

  • Documentation of all discussions and decisions is critical. Team members not only share a purpose, they share methodology for documenting and tracking all aspects of the project.
4. Learning As A Individual And Team Reward:

  • Staying focused on individual and team learning is key to success. Recognition and reward comes from being connected to a successful the project.
5. Silos:

  • Silos encourage redundancy and sub-optimal decision-making that significantly reduce an organizations responsiveness, productivity and profitability. They can not be part of a collaborative structure.

Conclusion:

Collaboration is the successful structure of the future - not a single conversation between two employees. A diverse and collaborative culture is a powerful competitive advantage. A well-implemented, trained and supported high-performance team will better align their outcomes around both their objective and company mission.

Tomorrows successful organizations recognize that in today's complex professional environment that collaboration is critical.

Collaborative leaders recognizes there will be challenges and that their greatest responsibility is to guide change and future success by preparing their employees to overcoming these challenges in a respectful and mindful way.

Happy communicating and collaboration.

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