It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned
to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.

— Charles Darwin

Collaboration at work is a goal, but not a reality, for many businesses. It’s difficult to orchestrate, yet it’s essential to growth of an organization. A survey by Clear Company found that over 85% of employees and managers list lack of collaboration or ineffective communication as leading causes of failure with work projects. If the company collaborates with its customers, both sides win. If a marketing manager leads collaboration with a group of employees from different departments within the company, targets can be set and obtained more effectively. If a customer service team within the company can collaborate to employ best practices, the business can improve and service customers more efficiently.

Effective collaboration at work hinges on four main elements.

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.
— Henry Ford

1. Clear Goals

Benjamin Franklin notably said “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” It is imperative that collaboration start with specific goals, preferably measurable ones. Setting the big picture for the team and getting buy-in on the goals enables the work to flow. “Increase sales by 10%” and “Reduce customer complaints to less than 1 per week” trump “make a profit”. With clearly defined objectives, teams can collaborate on specific action items.

When a gifted team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines instinct with boldness and effort, it is ready to climb.
— Patanjali

2. Clear Priorities

Where goals set the big picture, priorities set the order of events to obtain them. In our era of doing everything at once, we lose priorities (everything is URGENT). It leads to gridlock and lack of real results. Breaking down goals into action items and setting priorities paves the way for work to happen (and thus, collaboration). Adding a realistic timeline aids motivation (with no finish line, tasks can drag).

Gettin’ good players is easy. Gettin’ ’em to play together is the hard part.
— Casey Stengel

3. Clear Responsibilities

Once goals and priorities are defined, work can be shared with the team. Obviously assigning tasks to those with the appropriate skills is a starting point, but the team needs to know it’s acceptable to ask for help. Accountability may belong to a particular team member, but that team member is not expected to do all the work alone. And if the challenges mount, everyone needs to know it’s OK to escalate back without repercussion. That is, if things go awry, take too long or are becoming overly complicated, the group can revisit the goals and priorities.
The less people know, the more they yell.
— Seth Godin

4. Clear Communication

We’ve already touched on communication indirectly with responsibilities. To underscore, the team needs freedom to express concerns, excitement, triumphs and failures. The group can tackle issues far more effectively if everyone respects communication and eliminates judgment. Listening to issues as a group can often lead to new collaboration and more success. Problems should be shared, acknowledged and discussed. In many cases, an experiment can help identify a problem or a solution.

With so many team communication tools to choose from, it’s almost paralyzing. We’ve had good experiences with a few, some obvious, some not:

  • Slack
    Slack provides unified messaging, reducing email and streamlining communications within teams.
  • Trello
    We love Trello, a list-based project management tool organize and discuss everything for individuals and teams.
  • Basecamp
    Basecamp is a more traditional project management tool to organize and discuss everything within a team.
  • Google Docs
    Google Docs provides a single real-time way to access, create, and edit documents from anywhere (and practically from any device).
  • Join.Me
    If you need to share computer screens, one of the best (and free) choices is Join.Me. You can have instant meetings and calls.
  • Skype
    Warts and all, Skype remains one of the default choices for video conferencing. The next best option to face-to-face…


Collaboration at Work FTW

Collaboration is easier than ever with more communication tools, yet it also has become more challenging in other ways. Harnessing the power of collaboration at work can lead to far better employee engagement, and ultimately better company results.


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