How do leaders get teams and team members to work cross-functionally on shared goals? This implies a shift in thinking about how work gets done. It is a move from a command and control culture to a work environment based on connections and collaboration. Chipping in invites individuals to work interdependently rather than independently.
COLLABORATION As A WAY TO WORK CROss-FUNCTIONALLY
WHAT Is COLLABORATION?
Collaboration is more than cooperation. Col-lab-o-ra-tion literally means to co-labor or to labor together with other team members. Cooperation is working with others to enable them to complete an activity or assignment. Collaboration is working alongside other team members to accomplish something together that would not otherwise have happened.
WHY IS COLLABORATION
IT TAKES TIME
Collaboration is an investment of the most valuable resource of your team members: time! It does not replace the need for individuals to do their own work on their own time in their own way. Leaders also encourage workplace opportunities and challenges that require a different way of thinking, planning, and deciding. Collaboration provides a strategic way of working through organizational sticking points by using time, engaging people, and implementing a process to identify creative alternatives and sustainable solutions.
Collaboration is an uncertain journey. The dynamic of gathering a diverse group of individuals who move past typical workplace boundaries creates the potential for chaos. A virtual team adds to the complexity. Rules change when sitting around a table of equals without the interference of roles, titles, tenure, education, past achievement, or team identity. Collaboration introduces a myriad of approaches to reach shared outcomes. The process is never predictable or consistent.
IT NECESSITATES A SKILLED FACILITATOR
The need for flexibility in drawing from the resources of group process requires a skill set in facilitating group dynamics. Knowing the subtleties of what is happening within the group and between individuals demands insightful attention to interpersonal details. Leaders know when to step back and let the process carry itself and when to intervene with a deliberate line of questioning that can synthesize the creative thinking process. Leveraging conflict around competing ideas while keeping conflict from becoming interpersonal is an essential ground rule.
IT BEGS FOR CLARITY
Even though the deliverable outcome may not be clear, the objective and the criteria for evaluating alternative ideas must be clear from the outset. Values guide every step in how teams work together. Each value has behavioral implications. Clear expectations in how teams work together provide a safe context in which every participant can fully engage.
WHAT IS THE COLLABORATIVE RETURN ON INVESTMENT?
A collaborative group works without the barriers of title, tenure, education, generation, gender, or past achievement. When the hierarchy is flattened, then politics and pecking order are marginalized. A team of equals can more effectively collaborate, building on the strengths of each participant.
Collaboration includes all the key team members around the same table at the same time for discussion, consideration, and decision. Questions, misunderstandings, and differences are processed in real time rather than through an unending string of emails or misinterpreted off-line conversations.
When individuals work together toward a shared goal, the final outcome is more about “we” than it is about “me.” In the place of individual agendas and preferential conclusions, the collaborating group achieves a consensus among stakeholders that would not have otherwise happened. What the group accomplishes together is recognized, celebrated, and remembered
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