Collaboration in the Workplace

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Teamplay is everywhere, in work, at home, in sports, and basically anywhere where a bunch of people need to perform in concert with one another all going towards a common goal. A team that actually practices the capacity to work with one another and collaborate realise very strong results; meeting goals, beating deadlines, defeating seemingly insurmountable odds, and so on.

They see the value of one another and their individual strengths and contributions, are transparent and honest with one another which is conductive to discussion and solution-finding, find and address conflicting issues that run even the slightest danger of ruing team cohesion, and while moving towards a common goal, find ways to make that journey to that goal easier and more convenient.

Collaboration Teams

The challenge is that the team itself and its many members are both its greatest strength and possible weakness as the members of a team are only individuals and said individuals are prone to being diverse and different; great for ideas and solutions but not so much for team cohesion and desire to comingle at times. Lack of transparency between members, bad leadership skills or inexperience, cultural differences, overfamiliarity and abuse of the silo structure, organisational issues, irregularities, miscommunication, lack of definite roles, lack of definite goals, terrible rewards, and lack of reflection all contribute to shaking even a solid team into pieces if left unaddressed for too long.

Teams usually find enough time in the day to have these issues addressed by sounding the horns and getting a meeting together. However this isn’t always the case, especially in workplaces where the individual members are either too focused on their individual interests to recognise or care that these issues actually exist within their ranks, or are far too swamped by a deluge of work, and nonsense.

This happened to one of my teams earlier in the year as they experienced a lot of conflict with one another and just failed spectacularly to address their issues before HR had to step in. Their productivity was down by 40%, they were constantly taking longer and longer breaks between sessions, and I think they threw more epithets at each other online and in real life than what was both the norm, and acceptable on the job and outside of it. It was going to be a move that would freeze that asset for a significant amount of time, but since it was either this or risking the team collapse entirely, I opted for the safer option.

Thankfully one of our business partners did have a solution to this. They called it a Collaboration course and its goals were to reforge a crippled and barely functioning team into a powerful, seasoned, fighting force that could tackle any challenges that faced them, maintain their cohesion in spite of overwhelming odds, and improve themselves over time as they marched forward toward a common, sometimes seemingly insurmountable, goal. The sales pitch admittedly had me the moment they compared my team with an army, and since it was online they could take it in a way that didn’t interfere with the work present, so of course I had them signed up for the course and required them to pass it.

Among the first things they learned were the advantages and drawbacks of collaborating. This was a testy time for them as they’re a group of artists first and foremost (writer, illustrator, digital artist, video producer, editor, among others) so like the idea of independent thought and not bowing down to one or two persons’ demands. But they saw beyond that issue when collaborating meant reaching goals and meeting deadlines which they liked for varying reasons; others liked the cooperative nature, while some just liked the idea of getting things over with as quickly as possible; fair enough.

Understanding how teams operated and their lifecycle was important. They seemed quite perturbed when they found themselves at the point where they were already succumbing to infighting and rather ravenous behaviour with one another was this was clearly the dying phases of their team, and had it not been for foreign or outside intervention they’d probably split apart and not even want to associate with one another ever again; nightmarish according to the video editor. They swiftly gobbled up the lessons taught and somehow found a way to make amends, which bolstered their productivity in the office a bit.

Overcoming each other’s faults was one thing for all of them to do, but overcoming their barriers as a team was an interesting process to watch. The lessons were taught and who knows what transpired between them online and behind closed doors but it was a powerful emotional experience for the writer at least, and they became considerably more amiable to the rest of them afterward. Lord, I wish my church’s services could still do that…

Anyway before I get sidetracked further another thing they did or rather were taught to do and do effectively was to run meetings and communicate with each other in regular progress reports that they’d talk over in meetings on a regular basis. It had the interesting effect of allowing them to fraternize with one another further and build rapport, and with the output they were producing at the time having a downward trend, they obviously discussed ways to break that trend and come back swinging. And goodness me they weren’t just swinging; they may as well have been a young Mike Tyson in a fistfight.

During their time with the course the downward trend from the team stopped, before slowly levelling off, then suddenly spiking upon the third quarter of the year. Their productivity was up by 70%, their individual works were getting more focused and had much higher production quality than we would have ever expected, and in just a short time they became the exemplary team in our entire organisation; not just in our office, no; the entire organisation. That’s a considerable improvement, and one that I could have never seen transpire if not for the help of our sponsor and client company.

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