When I began writing this post, I wanted to discuss teamwork. How collaboration and teamwork go hand-in-hand, how there's no "I" in "TEAM," blah, blah, blah. Instead, (this may seem silly since I consider myself fairly knowledgable on the topic) I decided to revisit the basic definition of .
When you come right down to it, this definition is quite different from teamwork. While teamwork is the basic action of working together effectively, collaboration must result in a finished product or creation. I also realize that there is in fact, an "I" in "collaboration."
Why does this even matter? Because collaboration is essential to individual, team, and company growth. And let's be honest, collaboration is inevitable in business. If you treat collaboration like teamwork, you'll end up with a great team, but not always a great outcome. Taking action to make successful collaboration a priority on your team and with other departments can help streamline efforts and ultimately, save everyone time.
Let's take a look at some of the common challenges of team collaboration, and some tips on solving them:
1. Indecisive decision-makers
Ironic, isn't it? The ones who are supposed to provide a clear path to success end up having no idea what path to take. This situation is common when there are several stakeholders involved, and not all stakeholders are on the same page. Indecisiveness may seem like a small challenge at first, but it can lead to unclear expectations and delayed deadlines - not to mention frustrated team members.
Tip: Make the decision process as simple as possible for your stakeholders. Instead of asking them what to do, propose a few ideas and have them choose. A lot of the time, indecisiveness stems from statements such as, "Let me get back to you," or, "l'll think about it and let you know." Provide a deadline for their "marinating" so it doesn't get lost in the big black hole of to-dos.
This is a little term I use for when email straight up fails. You name it: hitting "reply all" (or forgetting to hit reply at all), not attaching the latest file, forgetting to peek into spam for important emails... it happens to the best of us. These mistakes are all too common when collaborating with several teams. Eventually, attachments are lost, grammar nazis are on the prowl, and project timelines are driven off the rails.
Tip: Stop using email to collaborate. Blasphemy, you say? Seriously, when it comes to collaboration. Instead, look into using a for managing projects and tracking accountability. Collaboration tools like help you archive and version files so you can always find the latest one. @Mentions and task assignments make accountability clear and consistent. So hop onboard the collaboration station and leave the email for newsletter subscriptions and company-wide announcements.
When collaborating, there is always room for misinterpretation and miscommunication. Sometimes, mistakes aren't even discovered until it's too late. Without a clear understanding of what's expected from stakeholders, energy is wasted and time is ticking. This can be caused by miscommunication or simply just missing communication.
Tip: Ask questions. When in doubt, raise your hand. Make sure you're clear on the objectives and expectations of everyone involved. If something is running behind, let them know. Mistakes and delays are inevitable, so speaking up and being proactive about them provides time to come up with a solution.
4. Process sinking vs. process syncing
Different departments have different processes. So when it's time to collaborate cross-departmentally, it's difficult to implement a consistent process that works well with every team's work style. And if teams are using different tools, the difficulty increases.
Tip: Come up with a process & a tool that everyone can use. Find collaboration tools that integrate with the platforms other teams rely on. Instead of changing everyone's way of working, find a tool that's flexible enough to integrate all of them. Be sure to ask about each department's particular viewpoints and challenges — for example, when considering your professional services team, ask what challenges do professional services firms face when choosing a common process.
5. Too many cooks
You've heard the saying, there are too many cooks in the kitchen. This can also be true for projects. It's great to get feedback on a project, but when too many people are involved, all that feedback can lead to more harm than good. Too many voices and differing opinions can pull people in different directions, and result in losing sight of the real objective.
Tip: Keep in mind who your key stakeholders are on the project. Those are the individuals who will be giving you the most valuable feedback. Asking for feedback from other team members or people with a fresh perspective is wise, but limit it to just one or two.
6. Negative Nancys
"We'll never get this done in time."
"He is so bossy!"
"I just can't work with her anymore."
These are common phrases used by those poisonous people lurking around the office, AKA, "Negative Nancys." There is usually at least one on every team and their pessimistic attitude spreads like wildfire. They complain about almost everything, and whenever there is a challenge or a disagreement, they will be the first ones to bring it up and the last ones to think of a solution. These individuals can bring down productivity and morale of a team, causing frustration and conflict.
Tip: Be the Positive Patty! Put out their fire with a positive comment or suggestion.
"We'll just have to work a bit harder to get this done on time."
"He probably has a lot on his plate right now. Let's make him proud and get this done!"
"She can be difficult sometimes, but she's going to help make this project successful."
If you happen to be the Negative Nancy, take a step back and evaluate your attitude. Simply changing the way you say things can get your point across, without the unproductive and contagious negativity.
What are some of your top collaboration challenges?
Share with us in the comments, and we'll do our best to try and come up with a solution.