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Why Work on Creating a Culture of Collaboration?
In case you missed the news bulletin, creating a culture of collaboration in places of employment is the wave of the future. Students graduate high school and college expecting to work in a collaborative environment. One of the challenges of the workforce in contemporary times is successfully integrating collaboration in an environment already inhabited by individuals who are not used to collaborating with others; this problem is one of a cluster found in the generation gap.
Creating a culture of collaboration can boost communication in your company, can add to team productivity, and can give each individual working on a project a sense of ownership over his or her company's work. Moreover, when collaborating with others, the creativity of the team is boosted, especially when it comes to brainstorming ideas for new products and services. Here are some tips for enhancing collaborative efforts in your company.
Image courtesy of sxc.hu/gallery/juliaf
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1. Make a Commitment to Ensure Every Individual is Represented
One challenge in collaborative work environments is the potential for having the brunt of work fall on only one or two individuals. One way to circumvent this in your organization is to avoid silencing team members when they speak. Because some individuals are naturally shy or introverted, they may discount their ideas before they share them. If someone repeatedly silences himself or herself, or is repeatedly silenced by others on the team, then there may be a reluctance to participate in collaborative activities.
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2. Establish Collaboration Protocols
There are two cliché phrases often associated with collaborative efforts: "two heads think better than one" is the positive affirmation of the benefits of collaboration. On the other side of the spectrum, the phrase "too many cooks in the kitchen" captures some of the negative aspects of collaboration. In order to embrace the benefits of collaborative work in your organization and to minimize the negative aspects, you will want to establish protocols for communication.
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3. Set Clear Collaboration Goals
It's not enough to establish protocols and to make a visible commitment to collaborating with others. It is absolutely vital that at the outset of any collaborative undertaking that there is at least one meeting devoted towards setting goals for the project. What is the deliverable that will be created through collaboration? How much collaboration will be necessary, how much work will be delegated amongst the members? What is the desired outcome? Make these goals specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound, and your team will be on the same page.
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4. Develop a System for Tracking Everyone's Involvement
You should have a reliable system in place for tracking the involvement of each member involved with the collaboration. There are many collaborative software programs that allow users to do this. While collaboration software does assist in tracking tasks and the completion of tasks amongst team members, you do not have to get fancy, there are a variety of tracking methods including task boards and daily meetings that can help ensure that you know where each individual in the collaboration team is with his or her efforts.
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5. Reward Collaboration Efforts
When you see solid collaboration efforts, acknowledge them. By acknowledging a job well done, you are helping to encourage future behavior that mimics what you currently see. Likewise, if despite your best efforts, a team member refuses to work with the other individuals in a collaborative manner, you will need to use effective conflict resolution techniques and demonstrate the proper discipline for the situation.
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6. Set the Office Up for Collaborative Work
What do you think the chances are that collaboration will happen in a company with the traditional cubicle? Be sure that desks are open, if cubicles or individual offices are the only solution, be sure that your company has an internal instant messaging system that facilitates communication between members. Group individuals in the same office or adjacent offices who are working on similar projects. By setting up for collaborative work, you will be helping to create that collaborative culture that you desire.
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7. Have an Open Dialog About What is - and Isn't - Working in the Collaboration
It's not enough to keep communication open when it comes to what tasks an individual is working on and what still needs to be done. You need to keep the door for communication open when it comes to discussing the collaboration itself. What's working? What isn't working? Be sure that you understand where your team members stand on the collaboration by asking not only how the project is coming along, but how the collaboration itself is coming along.
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8. Implement the Proper Collaboration Tools for the Job
Even if you do not choose to install collaboration software in your company, there are collaboration tools that you may want to look into that will facilitate creating a culture of collaboration in your organization. It is especially important to ensure that you have collaborative tools put into place if your team members do not share a physical office space. For example, remote team members need a way to post ideas, discuss issues, and track where everyone else is on the project. In this instance, it is vital that you use some sort of tool to manage your collaboration project. At the very least, you will want to have Skype, which will facilitate communication between team members no matter where they reside.
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9. Understand the Process for Coming to a Consensus May Not Necessarily be Easy
Collaboration projects require team members not only work together, but that the work appears to be seamless when it is complete. You should not be able to tell that one person worked on part one and another on part two. The only way to do this is to get team members to come to a consensus about what the project will look like. Coming to a consensus relies heavily upon those clearly defined goals. The team must be driven with a common purpose in mind. There must also be a sense of accountability for all members - after all, it's unlikely that the left-field idea will be desirable to Marvin if he's going to be accountable for seeing it through to the end. By asking all members to voice their concerns about each stage of the planning process in the collaboration, you can also come to a consensus. This is because any holes in your plan will be identified early on and the team can work together to overcome any potential difficulties.
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10. Ensure Every Team Member Possesses the Required Knowledge for Collaboration
Finally, when you are creating a culture of collaboration, you will want to make sure that every team member has the information he or she needs in order to collaborate effectively. You may have to host a training session for all employees, implement an in-service day where you instruct team members on how to use the software, or train an employee one-on-one. Before sending team members off on their own, though, you will want to make sure they all know how to use the tools, they have the information and background necessary to the project, and they are motivated to perform well.