The Secrets of Productive Workplace Collaboration

Some managers will argue that collaboration is counter productive and causes a lack of focus.

However, forming teams and working collaboratively means we can utilise the skills of different people to get things done, often to a better quality and in a shorter time period than working alone.

Here’s how you can work collaboratively to boost productivity, not hinder it…

Start by setting clear expectations

Collaboration will never work if everyone on the team doesn’t 100% understand the goals they are working towards.

Just like you need to know what you’re working towards when flying solo, everyone on your team needs to understand the shared goal and how they are expected to help achieve it.

Entrepreneur and Forbes journalist, J Maureen Henderson, goes so far as to say that setting clear expectations is the most critical aspect of productive collaboration…

“Everyone needs to clearly state what their understanding of the assignment is and what will constitute successful completion of it.”

Hold meetings that matter

One of the biggest areas where collaboration falls flat is communication. Meetings in particular, often end up holding teams back, eating into precious working time and generally sucking the productivity out of collaboration.

When working in teams, managing meetings effectively is absolutely key to your success.

Jason Fried, co-founder of 37 Signals believes meetings are major distractions…

“They require multiple people to drop whatever it is they’re doing and instead do something else. If you’re calling a meeting, you better be sure pulling seven people away from their work for an hour is worth seven hours of lost productivity. How often can you say that a given meeting was worth it? Remember, there’s no such thing as a one-hour meeting. If you’re in a room with five people for an hour, it’s a five-hour meeting.”

Before calling a meeting, always ask yourself “is this really necessary?”

If you absolutely must hold a meeting, take some advice from Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success and make sure you plan your meetings in detail before starting them…

“Before you start a meeting, have a reason for it. Then, tell each individual team member what they need to bring to each meeting and set an agenda. This way, you can measure the success of a meeting.”

Try to collaborate with people you know

In a 2006 Harvard study, researchers found that surgeons’ performance of certain procedures improved over time when they were working at their hospital. No surprises there.

However, their performance of the same procedures in other hospitals didn’t improve. The researchers concluded that it was likely this improvement in performance was driven by the surgeons’ familiarily with their particular hospital, it’s facilities and it’s team.

Writing for 99U, Christian Jarrett points out the benefits of working with the same people…

“By working repeatedly with the same people, you get to know their strengths and weaknesses; you have shared experiences to draw on; and you develop unspoken habits and rules that aid your mutual understanding.”

When putting teams together, consider personal relationships between employees. You may find that those who are closer outside of work collaborate better inside it.

Use the right tools

Using the right collaborative tools can save your team a ton of time and effort.

Collaborative project management software like Basecamp, collaborative support software like HelpScout or a collaborative contact management system like Contactzilla, means you can more easily manage your collaborative efforts.

Whatever collaborative efforts your team are struggling with, there’s likely to be a product or service available to help you out. Don’t be afraid to try new things, by experimenting with and testing new collaborative techniques, you and your team can work together productively to create amazing work.

How do you manage collaboration? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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