“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
11-time NBA champion as head coach
Not long ago, the Institute for Corporate Productivity (I4CP) published the brief How to Avoid Collaborative Overload highlighting the findings of a study on collaboration. The report addresses four practices than enable greater collaboration while avoiding overload. We covered two of the I4CP’s four practices in our first post:
- Provide time and workspaces designed to collaborate
- Form groups based on expertise
This post discusses the last two practices and shows how collaboration platforms can play a key role in supporting them.
Practice #3 – Freedom to Shift Work
High-performance organizations are 3.5 times more likely to allow employees to shift work without going through the chain of command than low-performance ones.
The idea of giving employees the ability to shift work from one individual to another seems a little counterintuitive at first. After all, it is not hard to imagine the potential chaos resulting from this practice at scale. But within the limits afforded by team dynamics (common objectives, trust among teammates, roles, required expertise, etc.), there are circumstances where work flexibility can be beneficial. For example, having the ability re-route work to someone who temporarily has a lighter workload. Another example would be when circumstances require immediate action or resolution: A technical issue with a server cluster may have been hastily assigned to someone, but upon review, that person determines an available colleague with the proper expertise – load balancing – is the only person who can fix it. It would be much more efficient and beneficial to the overall team to make this change without needing to submit it for a formal review for permission?
A collaboration platform acting a single source of the truth that ensures complete transparency and accuracy to all stakeholders is a great asset to alleviate some of the challenges related to this best practice. It can also facilitate and legitimize the practice: Not only can this sort of ‘work transaction’ happen instantly because the platform connects workers together in one digital space, but it also acts as a system of records, meaning the request to transfer a particular deliverable/outcome is documented and the ensuing acceptance/rejection follows the same steps.
Practice #4 – Formal / Informal Roles That Drive Collaboration
High-performance organizations are 4 times more likely to designate or create informal roles to facilitate collaboration.
Research on collaboration has shown that 20 to 35% of value-added collaborations come from a small number of people (between 3 to 5% of the total number of individuals). These high-value collaborators often make the entire team more productive since these individuals demonstrate willingness to pitch in to get a particular deliverable “over the line” or achieve the desired outcome. However, such individuals also incur the greatest risk of becoming overloaded with informal collaborative requests, which could be detrimental to their own productivity and, over time, to their health.
It is therefore the role of the leader – the person responsible for the planning, organizing and execution across all stages – to monitor the workload of all team members and if required, ensure workload is balanced across the entire team. The informal nature of collaborative requests within a team makes it challenging to observe individual overload. Anecdotal evidence (working late, a packed schedule, etc.) may provide hints at potential issues – but that is not enough. What practices are used by high-performance to identify collaborative overload?
The I4CP brief offers several best practices correlating to performance: an engagement survey (used 2 times more by high-performance organizations than low-performance ones), reporting collaboration problems to manager (used 4.5 times more by high-performance firms) and analysis of internal organizational network activity to identify information flow and bottleneck. Although not widely used, this last practice is used seven times more by high-performance firms!
A platform integrating project management and collaboration is instrumental to gain a window into the fluidity of team collaboration and help spot collaborative overload. A platform such as the 3DEXPERIENCE platform provides the ability for team members to interact in real-time with one another and track interactions in the context of the processes, the content, the data and the people of interest. Interactions become more focused and fluid as they are linked to these elements. This integration leads to a continuous, more efficient capitalization of know-how and expertise as execution and interactions are part of the same outcome-based process or project.
Today’s organizations understand that collaboration is a key component of their success. But high-performance organizations go further by applying a number of best practices to enhance how employees connect with others across their value network and work effectively together in order to achieve common goals. Technology platforms, such as the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, improve these best practices by facilitating collaboration in context of the processes, the data, the teams and the applications. This all-in-one approach allows organizations to drive collaboration in a more holistic way and gain efficiencies throughout the entire process or project.
Read: Connecting and Collaborating: Part 1
Related Infographic: Combatting Cognitive Overload