by Chris Uldriks — December 10, 2019

As organizations strive for a sustained ability to quickly and effectively respond to change while consistently delivering high performance, collaboration has never been more critical, and has also never been more challenging.​

Most organizations will agree that effective collaboration is essential to business success.  Many organizations do not talk about what effective collaboration is – or how to make it happen.  Effective collaboration is efficient engagement between individuals and teams resulting in new ideas, informed decisions, and purposeful rapid response – keeping organizations competitive in a rapidly changing environment.​

The strains of the workforce today are complex and unique making engagement between individuals and teams more challenging than ever before.  The multi-generational workforce brings with it widely varying styles of leadership, communication preferences, and levels of comfort with technology.  The growing emphasis on contingent workforces and the gig economy demand rapid on-boarding and efficient knowledge transfer.  Without a holistic approach to building a culture of collaboration, these forces slow response to change and inhibit high performance delivery.​

​A culture of collaboration keeps employees connected to each other, and an organization’s strategy.  And it requires the candid and timely flow of information and ideas up, down, and across an organization. This connection and community keeps top talent happy, interested, and engaged, and draws more top talent.​

The evolution of collaboration technology itself has driven this change in approach to collaboration.  Where the average office employee used to have (and maybe still does) Skype for Business for IM, Box for file sharing, Webex for virtual conferencing, and a to-do list in Outlook, now they can leverage Microsoft Teams or similar workstream collaboration technology for all these use cases and much more.  Productivity suites such as Google G-Suite and Microsoft 365 integrate individual communication and content applications into comprehensive collaboration solutions. 

While the power and value of collaboration technology has grown tremendously with its evolution, the negative consequences from deploying it without consideration for human behavior, change, and best practices have grown even more.  The “what tool do I use when?” to the “Version control via email attachment” syndromes that plague many organizations, and create waste and confusion enterprise-wide.

This culture of collaboration requires that we think differently about the tools and technology we use to engage each other.  It’s about more than flipping the switch on the newest technology.  Leading with collaboration best practices and supplementing with the right technology becomes the new norm.  Support means more than a help desk.  It’s a network of team members engaging teammates on the ground, educating, and collecting feedback.  Seeking continuous improvement in communication and collaboration, and eliminating waste, becomes standard work.​

Holistically building a culture of collaboration means thinking and planning across dimensions of work beyond the digital element which is so often the focus.  It requires focus on human behavior, and a culture that prides itself on connectivity across, up, and down the organization.  Successful collaboration requires that we leverage our connectivity to translate strategic objectives to detailed operations, to ensure that collaboration is machine-like with many pieces working towards the same targeted outcomes.  A holistic approach to creating a culture of collaboration ensures efficient engagement between individuals and teams resulting in new ideas, informed decisions, and purposeful rapid response – keeping organizations competitive in a rapidly changing environment.​