Remember high school and college, and how some teachers based most of your grade on a team project? Remember how there was always a slacker on the team that everyone else had to cover for? Remember how frustrating it was to try getting everyone to agree on how best to complete the project? Didn’t you wish you could just do the whole thing yourself?
Collaboration can be a painful lesson in patience, or a beneficial experience in teamwork, depending on the group and the tone set by its leader. I haven’t met many people who truly love collaborating on business projects, and yet, it is a big part of business success. Most people complain that collaboration is time-consuming (too many dead-end planning meetings), not personally beneficial (“my contribution is more than theirs”), and stressful (added deadlines, responsibilities, and managing personality quirks). So, why even bother collaborating? Well, because collaboration is one of the best ways to solve complex challenges. Simply put, the more brain-power you have available, the more likely you are to find positive solutions.
If it’s so helpful, why is it so many people groan when asked to collaborate? Probably because collaboration is viewed the wrong way.
Collaboration is not cooperation.
One of the biggest misnomers is that collaboration and cooperation are synonymous.
While cooperation is a friendly exchange with people sharing information, collaboration is an alignment of goals and resources towards a shared purpose.
When a group has a shared purpose, the project is no longer about the individuals involved and what they bring to the table, the focus is in achieving a common goal. Therefore, for a successful collaboration to occur, project leaders must get everyone focused on the goal, not on themselves.
A collaborative team works in real-time, aligning their goals and resources, regardless of which department they represent. They map out what needs to happen, by which date, and by whom. Good collaborative project leaders make sure everyone knows what is needed, how it’s needed, and by when.
Collaborative projects are successful when everyone affected is involved from the very start of the project and contributes to each part of the plan while sharing resources.
Change whining to winning
To get people on board with the collaboration, first and foremost make sure they understand and support the purpose of the project. Help them think outside of how it directly affects them and their department, and instead look at the big picture of how each piece of the puzzle comes together for the benefit of the company.
Keep communication open but on-task. Communication is a key component of any team, and as such it helps if the project leader spells out the rules of the road when it comes to inter-department discussions. Respecting peoples’ time leads to increased efficiency as well as support, so don’t let discussions get off-track, and keep the tone friendly.
Lastly, keep an open mind and encourage others to do the same. Some of the greatest failures springboard the largest innovations. There is more than one way to accomplish any goal, and sometimes even the craziest ideas produce feasible solutions.
Collaboration, when managed properly, produces business and personal reward. Bring your group together to contribute to a shared purpose, and you’ll find anything is possible.