As organizations become increasingly functionalized and projects become more and more complex it's likely that program tasks and timelines will be impacted. I assumed a cross functional project that had been going on for a couple of years and cost my employer millions. I assumed responsibility for this project understanding that I was expected get this deployed and do it quickly. Several functional teams were depending on this program to simplify their operations with each having different requirements for a successful integration. It appeared that identifying roadblocks and forging compromise among the constituent teams would do the trick. My team and I worked hard to do this and we were able to finally launch this program only to rip it down within 60 days. The final version seemed to align with the original plan but the many compromises and "workarounds" delivered a watered down version of the program originally envisioned. So much time had elapsed between project start and finish that the benefits of the program had been lost. In this instance and in spite of our best effort, our full court press - successful in that we were able to negotiate compromise - resulted in launching an unrecognizable and ineffective program. What was our lesson learned? Compromise is good. Collaboration is better.
Fostering cross functional collaboration is the right approach for solution focused organizations. In fact, one could argue that collaboration is necessary to leverage the positive and practical aspects of today's multi-generational workforce where there are generational predispositions to different problem solving techniques. Further, it is widely accepted that successful organizations build staffs that have a diversity of quality ideas and take the initiative to develop innovative solutions that get things done in the right way.
Collaboration is all about trust; trusting teams to work together and make good things happen. It allows for the best ideas to come forward, exposes team members to different operational procedures and thinking while deepening an appreciation for the larger purpose of any initiative. In an environment where collaboration is the norm so is innovation. So, as leaders, how do we create a workplace that builds trust to foster collaboration and innovation? Here are a couple of ideas:
- Be open and honest with your team in terms of your expectations of them and what they can expect from you. You need them - let them know that.
- Expect nothing but their very best and trust them to deliver it
- Give credit where credit is due and recognize the expertise of others
- Seek out and consider alternative viewpoints
- Make information and resources available for the overall success of the mission
- While functional goals are critical to make things happen, keep the organization's over-arching goals and principles front and center, and
- Measure success in terms of the performance of the "whole" rather than that of the "parts".
The key take away is this: compromise will get things done but often focuses on the needs of individuals or discrete teams rather than whole organizations. Collaboration creates something bigger and brighter - a successful project that focuses on a solution that meets the overall goals of an organization and leaves behind a well informed staff steeped in the knowledge of a firm's many working parts and their part in the machine.
So...what do you think? In what ways can you foster a spirit of collaboration? I know that while my little story is simplified for this blog bit, if I had brought all together to collaborate and determine the best way to move forward to meet the goals of the company I would have saved myself , my team and my management a lot of grief!
If you would like to "collaborate" with me to develop a plan or approach to focus on diversity of thought and solution orientation, contact me for more information. I'd love to hear from you. Enjoy Valentine's Day, Presidents Day and Spring Break! Talk to you soon.