Collaboration in the Workplace: Friend or Foe?
A successful company is not just about good products, great tools, a one-of-a-kind vision, competent leaders, or skilled employees. More importantly, it is how these various components work together that spells the difference between success and failure. Team collaboration is vital to organizational success, as it encourages people to work harmoniously, and share ideas and expertise to accomplish a common goal. When more members are involved in the processes that matter to a company, problems are handled effectively, and projects are completed in a timely manner.
It is important to understand, however, that just like most strategies that are worth pursuing, collaboration is a double-edged sword. It comes with advantages and disadvantages, and what works for some may not be applicable to others. Different strokes for different folks, so they say.
Gregg W. Steinhafel, CEO of Target Corporation, the second-largest discount retailer in the United States, says that communicating regularly with team members is an integral factor that strengthens the collaborative spirit of their company. On the other hand, there are those who tend to be more creative when they’re left to their own devices. Steve “Woz” Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer, advises fellow engineers and inventors to “Work alone, not on a committee. Not on a team.”
While team collaboration is an essential factor for success, too much teamwork also hinders positive results. That being the case, knowing the pros and cons of workplace collaboration is key to determining how it can be maximized.
- Tasks are divided so they’re done efficiently and in a timely manner.
The more people involved in a project, the more skills to utilize, which consequently results in the speedy completion of a task. When members are assigned to their specific fields of expertise, you take full advantage of their ability to contribute to an organization’s objective.
- More human resources to tap, a more diverse pool of ideas.
Through brainstorming sessions, team members gain deeper insight into how the business operates, enabling them to come up with proposals that lead to the company’s overall improvement.
- There is equal participation among all members.
The phrase “leave your titles at the door” means everyone is treated as equals in a collaborative endeavor. This encourages more ideas from all levels of the company, from the C-level executive to the guy in the mail room. When employees feel their contributions are valued, they develop the confidence to share their inputs, especially on how projects can be more efficiently completed or how process bottlenecks can be addressed once and for all.
- Collaboration helps with job satisfaction and employee retention.
Being able to share success with other members as a result of collaboration gives people a sense of belonging, like they are an important part of a team. Retention rates are generally favorable when employees feel bonded with the people they work with.
- Too many ideas, too much time and energy expended in brainstorming sessions.
Since all members are free to share ideas, ideas which are all taken into consideration, there is the risk of talking things out too much. This undertaking is not only time-consuming, it may also result to dissatisfied and mentally exhausted members, having spent many hours deliberating about certain possibilities, only to come up with nothing concrete in the end.
- Certain plans may become the subjects of disagreements that can ultimately divide the team.
When two or more possible solutions are thrown on the table, it can be a challenge to select the most effective. Sometimes, arguments between members may emerge due to differing ideas and philosophies. When a conflict goes out of hand, rather than focus on what’s good for the team, people in the organization tend to act more upon their own agendas, which, in turn, causes more damage to the company’s morale.
- Too much collaboration can result in the loss of some decision-making power and the ability to be creative.
Being a team player means accepting the group’s decision on how to best execute a project, whether or not you agree with the chosen methodology. No matter how strongly you feel that your idea is superior to the selected one, if the majority chooses to go with a different strategy, you may have to give up your creative ideas and comply.
- Too many people may try to take control of the group.
Equality being the norm, in a collaborative environment, there’s the danger that many will try to lead the group, which equates to less members willing to take the backseat. Such divergence, when not dealt with properly, can affect other areas of the company, even among those who are not involved in the collaborative effort.
A team is comprised of individuals, and each individual is unique. When a person knows his abilities are put to good use, he is more willing to work with others. Collaboration should not be forced upon people. Instead, team members should feel they’re working towards a goal that’s beneficial to everyone as a whole, without losing their sense of independence. A strong “me” creates strong teams. At the end of the day, collaboration is all about strength in diversity.
Once you’ve figured out how to make collaboration work for your company, the next step is to make use of cloud-based collaboration tools to maximize collaboration success.