“Effective collaboration” requires a major focus on culture, the deployment and use of technology, and the adoption of process and governance. Having the technology but not using it effectively could lead to a lot of bad meetings. Having process and technology but not having a culture that embraces and promotes collaboration could lead to bad collaboration (I already told you this is worse than no collaboration).
Even with all the hoopla on this topic, there are few companies focusing on all three success factors (technology, process and culture) and thus failing to realize the full potential of collaboration. I’ll address each of these in separate blogs, starting with technology.
Before we get too far, there are a few things to consider. First, collaboration is not a new topic and has been around since the beginning of time. Cavemen collaborated while hunting. Parents collaborate with each other in PTA meetings. We collaborate in business to provide increased value to our customers and shareholders. The point being that most of us know how to collaborate effectively …as long as it’s FACE TO FACE.
Technology is changing the way we collaborate. We no longer need to be in the same place at the same time to achieve great results. Common citizens in the Middle East are using social media to challenge governments. Daily, thousands of Cisco employees leverage high def video to collaborate. And millions of people collaborate via web meetings; wikis, blogs, user generated videos and discussion forums.
The change is dramatic and happening at lightning speed. Most of this collaboration is virtual versus face to face (in person). This is very important to emphasize because success will require us to use new tools to effectively collaborate.
New world, new rules, new tools!
Here are my tips on how to get going at your company:
- Experiment – Many large enterprises have very strict processes and guidelines on the adoption of new company-wide technology deployments. I suggest adopting an approach of experimentation. Without experimentation you may miss a game changing technology.
- Start Small – Engage in three to four small technology deployments and see what works.
- Measure / Learn – At the onset of these experiments make sure you figure out a way to capture and measure the impact of these technologies. The data/results are key in gaining support from the executive team.
- Executive Sponsor – Find an executive sponsor who is interested in technology or can gain the most from it. Keep them informed on a regular basis.
- Expect Failure – Not everything will work. Keep documentation on what failed and why.
- Trust – This is one of the key things to understand. Nothing replaces face-to-face meetings. The key human characteristic that enables or hinders collaboration is trust. Technologies like high definition video will have a significant impact on trust since facial expressions and body language are recognized. That makes HD video a valuable tool if the teams have never met or if their personal relationships are limited. Inversely, audio conferencing has very little impact on building trust. Use the right tool for the job!
- Inside/Outside Company – To maximize the potential of any collaboration effort, consider how to get people outside your company to participate. Consider suppliers, partners and customers as potential participants and contributors. Some great things may happen!
Technology is changing everything and requires us to experiment with what’s available. You can’t leverage something unless you try, measure and learn from it. As always, I welcome your comments and wish you well on your own collaboration journey! I’d like to hear from you on Twitter.