Moving the Needle on Collaboration in Your Organization

How to Move from the 72% to the 28%

179693829People understand from experience that when they collaborate, they can accomplish more.  And the numbers underscore that companies who collaborate better outperform their peers by 2 to 6 times.

Yet most companies or departments are in the 72% of organizations whose collaboration maturity is either, “Unsupported” or “Non-integrated”.

Whether I talk to a small businesses or a department in a large corporation, one thing is common, they all want to collaborate better.  They want to be able to do more from both an effective communication and collaboration point-of-view.  Even though they are doing some collaborative things, they know they can do more. But they aren’t sure what they should be doing next to collaborate better.  Even when we start talking about some of the things that they could be doing, they have a hard time imagining themselves using the new collaborative tools within their businesses or they can’t imagine spending any money on the tools they want to get better at collaboration.

There are many different things that you can do to build your organization’s collaborative muscle and accelerate your collaborative performance.  Here is a chart from SMART Technologies “Inspired Collaboration” initiative, which shows many of the levers which can be adjusted within your organization.

collaboration wheel

These levers are really good for a “top down” approach to collaboration within your organization, but they don’t help much when your company doesn’t have the resources to conduct a “top down” analysis.

Most organizations take a Crawl, Walk, Run (C-W-R) approach, which is a sound strategy, however, many never make it past the Crawl stage – the 72%

So how can you take the C-W-R approach and make sure you progress?    

Step 1: The Most Important Meeting

No matter how big or small your company is, let’s take the discussion down to a departmental level, to make this applicable to every businessperson,  Ask yourself – What is the most important meeting you attend that recurs at least once a month?

Chances are that whatever meeting you picked, it is some kind of an update or status meeting.  A meeting whose objective is to synchronize the activities of a team updating each other on what has happened since the last time you met.  This could be a weekly Sales meeting, Operations meeting, a Project meeting, etc. – you get the idea.

In the meeting, it is likely that the team is making adjustments to some kind of scorecard or project plan trying to monitor their progress since the last meeting and deciding where their attention needs to be directed too.  Once you have identified that meeting, you should now answer these questions from a collaboration point-of-view:

Are the participants all local or are some remote?  If there are remote participants, are they all individuals or is there another meeting room somewhere that has a number of people that are joining the meeting (or both)?

What technologies are you using?  How are you using them?

What is missing?  How do you want everyone more engaged, more involved?

Depending on the answers to these questions you can start to incrementally make your “Most Important Meeting” better.  The first incremental improvements often don’t cost anything at all.  Why?  Because most people don’t know how to get the most out of the technology they are already using.  I sometimes sit through a customer’s “Most Important Meeting” and after the meeting is over, I point out 2 or 3 things that they can do to make the experience better for everyone just by making a few adjustments.

The next part of the crawl is to add a couple of pieces of technology that will further enhance the meeting.  These can be anywhere from a couple $100 to say $2,000.  Adding these pieces builds the quality of the meeting experience, e.g. making it easier to hear and be heard.

The next step is where we start to progress from the crawl to the walk.  Here is where we lay out how we can make the meeting better with technology, which makes collaboration easier for in-room participants, and for remote participants, makes them feel like they are in the room with the rest of the people.

This is where you have to spend more money on technology IF you want to get to this point.  The types of technology you would add:

Depending on the size of the room these technologies can add up.  Each one of them on their own can start at several thousand dollars and if you go big, 10s of thousands.  But if you have budget constraints, you can prioritize and implement them one at a time until you get to the collaborative experience that is optimal for your “Most Important Meeting”.

The “Most Important Meeting” tends to drive the priority of having room technology to accelerate collaboration and enhance communication, but from my experience it plays a secondary, but important role in an organization’s collaborative development.  You will get a much bigger payback if you can accelerate the collaboration of all the activities that take place between the “Most Important Meetings”.  If you can inject greater collaboration into the activities between the team members as they do their day-to-day jobs, you will go to a full collaborative Walk.

But how do you do that?

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Step 2: Team Activities Between the Most Important Meetings

Stay tuned to this blog for Steps 2 to 4 on moving collaboration forward in your business or department.  But remember you can increase your collaborative muscle by:

  1. Taking small steps – some incremental things are foolproof and cost nothing
  2. Not being afraid of bigger steps
  3. Planning to learn from every step you take

And remember the goal, you can make your organization 2 to 6 times better by increasing your velocity of collaboration.

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