Magazine article HRMagazine

Collaboration or Distraction?

Magazine article HRMagazine

Collaboration or Distraction?

Article excerpt

Collaboration has become the be-all and end-all at many organizations. After all, numerous studies have linked it to revenue growth and customer satisfaction.

But many company leaders encourage collaboration for collaboration's sake, without giving much thought to how it should be done.

For example, they often don't consider how to keep their top people from burning out from too many joint projects, says Kevin Oakes, chief executive officer at business consultancy Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) in Seattle.

Effective collaboration occurs when leaders work intentionally to create and support a culture that facilitates teamwork, i4cp researchers have found. In other words, it has to be done on purpose.

"Purposeful collaboration is a very concerted effort by companies to focus collaboration on business outcomes, to train individuals and managers on how to collaborate effectively, and to make it safe to report collaboration overload," Oakes says. "We're finding that highperforming organizations are taking this seriously and creating programs that help develop collaboration techniques."

Researchers at i4cp studied the collaborative practices of more than 1,100 organizations in partnership with Rob Cross, an associate professor of global leadership at Babson College in Babson Park, Mass., and co-author of a 2016 Harvard Business Review article on collaboration overload.

In the past two decades, the time that employees spend collaborating with others, via meetings, e-mails or phone calls, has increased 50 percent or more, Cross noted in that article. Yet one-third of high-performing organizations and half of low-performing ones report making no effort to identify if or where employees are so overloaded helping others that they can't get their individual work done, according to i4cp research released in September. (To identify "high-performing" organizations, the researchers used the companies' multiyear reports of revenue, customer satisfaction and other indicators.)

Leaders at all levels can play a key role in building a culture based on trust, which encourages productive teamwork and alleviates collaborative overload. But training is especially needed for midlevel managers and first-line supervisors, who might have more difficulty balancing collaborative tasks with their individual work, i4cp researchers found. …

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