Developing a Collaborative Culture

Two weeks ago, I published a piece on the difference between an “information sharing” culture and a “collaborative” culture. I called it Sharing Information on Collaboration.

In that post, I wrote,

“The purpose of an information sharing event is just that…to share, to inform, etc.

and

“The purpose of a collaboration event is to produce or create something or to solve or fix something.

 

I went on to discuss the two different types of workplace cultures. I offered what I believe are great benefits to having both types of cultures but reminded the reader that, inword artdeed, the two types of cultures are different.

Last week, I published a piece on creating an “information sharing” culture; feel free to take a gander when you get a moment. This week, I offer my ideas on creating a “collaborative” culture.

 

Identify the culture as it is today and assess if this is something that should be encouraged or changed.

  • Silos…do you have them and, if so, how high are those walls? (What I mean by this question is how often or how easy is it to cross into another program and solve problems or create things? Does the employee have to seek permission or follow some type of protocol?)
  • Are the leaders committed to working collaboratively? Do they often incorporate their peers and/or other staff into discussions?
  • Are there formalized processes in place that encourage and/or enable group work or does this type of thing only happen haphazardly or “underground”?
  • Do cross functional groups come together only when there is a problem to be fixed or do they appear to work together for idea sharing, innovation, etc.?
  • Does management have to “approve” cross functional and/or inter-disciplinary work, meetings, problem solving, etc.?
  • Can collaboration take place at any time or does it have to be “scheduled” so everyone can physically be present?

(Answers to these questions should give a general idea on the organization’s culture as it pertains to collaboration.)

 

Identify the purpose and/or objectives.

  • Organizational purpose or objectives can be broadly articulated.
  • Project or programmatic purposes should be specifically narrated.

(Please note, if the organization has a general purpose or overall objectives regarding collaboration and cooperations, leaders need to ensure their own purposes/objectives are consistent and aligned with that of the organization.)

 

Develop the strategy(ies).

  • What can leadership immediately do to empower group cooperation and problem solving? (Trust is a huge foundation for a collaborative culture and, therefore, leaders must demonstrate they trust their employee’s insight, expertise and opinions.)
  • What should be done to ensure a diverse group of people is working the issue?
  • What should be done to eliminate or prevent the silo mentality?
  • What activities will encourage information sharing and support to others?
  • What can be done to help employees see the bigger picture and/or how their work or programs fit into the organization’s objectives?
  • What can be done to recognize or otherwise celebrate when collaboration has positive results? Likewise, what can be done to analyze when it doesn’t without stifling future collaboration?

 

Identify the participants, players and perspectives.

  • For the strategies (activities) above, who are the ideal participants, recipients, or other players? Why?
  • Are supervisors or managers participating and, if so, what is their purpose? (The goal is to have active participation and cooperation so if the presence of authority will stifle this, re-evaluate.)
  • When inviting and/or selecting the individuals, are the perspectives represented well rounded and diverse? (Not only their race, gender, ethnicity, etc. but their tenure, their way of thinking, their communication styles, their learning styles, etc.)

 

Utilize the time and tools effectively. (Please note, it is assumed that the collaborative/cooperative “purpose” will be addressed so every participant understands his/her role, expectations, etc.)

  • Collaborative techGroup “huddles” or quick “tabling” sessions to tackle a problem and/or discuss an issue (If a value-added participant is not physically present, using audio or video conferencing will help encourage collaboration.)
  • IRL (in real life) meetings with content sharing tools and devices (Allowing all participants to “touch” or otherwise be engaged with a tangible work product helps encourage ownership and collaboration.)
  • Electronic methods (chatter groups, email groups, etc.) coupled with document sharing platforms
  • Audio and video conferencing with content sharing tools (Sharing screens and documents, being able to annotate via interactive screen and/or personal devices, or adding individual content are all ways to improve collaboration and cooperation.)
  • Social Media platforms
  • Open workspaces (When designed and intended for collaboration, open workspaces help encourage this type of culture but without mindful intention and/or direction, open workspaces can quickly become loud chaotic places.)
  • Open Door practices (As stated earlier, trust is a necessity for a collaborative culture so the active, objective and risk-free “open door” practice goes a long way to ensuring trust is both given and received.)

 

Circle back and check on purpose/objectives.

  • Are the goals and objectives being met? How so?
  • Might the success be dependent upon the strategies regarding collaboration and cooperation? If so, continue!
  • Might the drift or failure be dependent upon the strategies regarding collaboration and cooperation? If so, do change or adapt them accordingly.

 

Hopefully, the above advice will point you in the right direction of creating a beneficial collaborative culture. I hope you can see that it is not all that difficult and that you realize that, just like creating a information sharing culture, creating a collaborative culture simply takes thoughtful commitment.

Good luck!

 

 

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Heather Kinzie

Heather serves as the Director of Consulting Services for The Strive Group. Bringing more than 20 years of organizational and workforce performance experience with her, she knows all too well that ineffective communication and collaboration often hinder business success. She recognizes there is a plethora of hardware and software solutions/tools available and is determined to learn as much about them as possible while sharing physical offices with her sister company, The Chariot Group. Join Heather as she shares her “ah ha” moments in her blog, “From Here to Epiphany” and gain from her other insights into how you, your team or your organization can better improve team and organizational performance. Read Heather's full bio.

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