Creating A Collaborative Culture
As teams grow in size, so do the artifacts that the team create. This year, slightly before the virus started spreading, and everyone was forced to work remotely, you experimented with the team in an attempt to increase collaboration.
- Accelerate time to results. The team was in the habit of shipping everything up to yours truly and then yours truly was expected to provide feedback. Mathematically, this is a loosing preposition. A team is built of more than one person and yours truly is exactly one person. So, by having all the material bubble up, you create a denial of service attack and the team was always waiting on feedback. Creating a collaborative culture, where a team member is encouraged to seek feedback from other peers and just review a document and provide input is a great way to increase the speed in which the organization operates.
- Build trust. Collaboration does not work when team members do not trust each other. The reverse is also true: collaboration helps build trust. Trust, in your peers, the system, the institutions, is a crucial element in safety and safety is the foundation of partnership. If one does not feel safe in the group, collaboration will suffer.
- Empowerment. In the corporate world, people hide information in order to gain the upper hand. To be, or at least feel, more powerful. If you know something that Suzanne does not know, you have more knowledge and therefore more power. That’s a great premise for a TV show, but this fails completely in the face of the path a corporation need to take to succeed: get in the same boat, row in the same direction, and reach the next landing shore. Imagine that the rower on the left has knowledge that the Eastern shore is the direction and the rower on the right does not have the same knowledge. How will we ever get to shore? Collaboration is empowerment. Even listening to new ideas, seeing a road map document and providing input, unsolicited, can only improve the product.
6 months into the experiment, the team is more collaborative, more open and way more productive. How did we get there?
- You responded to every email with attachment in the same way “sorry, I can not read this attachment. Please put it on our shared drive and send me a link.”
- Lead from the front. You created several directories, with names such as “Research” and “Road Map” and made them visible to everyone. You mark documents clearly as WIP (work in progress), but all the work is done in the open. So far, no corporate secrets leaked out and no one provided mean feedback. In fact, when asked “what’s the plan” you simply point to the document and state “here you go, look for yourself”
- Did Jack review it? Some habits are hard to kill so many folks still defaulted to sending material up the chain (this time as a link in an email). The way to enforce collaboration here was simple “did your colleague review it?” If the answer was no, you gently suggested that this should be done first and the rest was pure magic.
- You made all the files disappear to see how people respond. Well…lets say that the situation happened without you making it (everything was backed up of course), but the level of alarm the team showed was truly amazing to see. It was worth the small heart attack to realize that everyone had gotten so used to sharing files that no one had local copies anymore!
So now the team is much more collaborative. A recent launch worked so well, that 3 different folks contributed to the same partner quote sheet and were often fixing each other typos as the text was created – from three different continents. Another great example was a last minute preparation to an analyst briefing that included live editing of a deck which using a chat tool to agree on the content. The efficiency, trust and empowerment the team feels is a great testament to a collaborative culture.