A growing number of articles are addressing the downsides of today’s culture of collaboration. Common symptoms are unproductive meetings and individual work groups driving a proliferation of apps as some of the main causes of the “collaboration overload.” Knowledge workers are being hit especially hard.
A recent piece from the Harvard Business Review proposes that this phenomenon, making collaboration more burdensome than beneficial, is a symptom of a more deeply rooted organizational problem. It identifies organizational complexity and a “collaboration for collaboration’s sake” culture as the underlying issues.
Pinpointing the larger issues within your organization is a big task and not one you can take on solo. But there are things you can do as an individual collaborator, so that you’re not just another warm body in a meeting going nowhere or an email address cc’ed on a thread.
Here are 3 bits of advice to empower you personally and help your organization combat unhealthy collaboration practices.
1. Don’t overdo it
You probably know at least one team that’s always in meetings. It makes you wonder, “when do they get any work done?” The problem with overdoing collaboration is that it gets in the way of executing your to-dos. You have to admit, there are few things worse than getting a last minute meeting invite when you have a pile of work to get through.
If exchanging messages or getting on a quick call just won’t cut it, and you find that you do need to call a meeting, first consider who is really needed in the room. If it’s a decision you need, then the decision makers is/are your obvious choice. Maybe there are key stakeholders too. But don’t let that translate into an “all hands meeting”. Your colleagues will appreciate your thoughtful consideration and maybe do the same for you.
For team status reporting, there’s no need to call in a whole group when a ‘rep’ will do. This will leave enough time in everyone’s schedules to come up with ideas on their own and work on their projects in peace.
2. Put a cap on meetings
Being smart about the number of meetings you call, is a great beginning. Next you can try to curb the time spent in meetings. One approach is to set up a “meeting time bank” that allows team members to spend only a limited number of minutes in meetings, daily or weekly. Every scheduled face-to-face interaction counts against the banked time. It might sound alarming (and does introduce a bit of overhead what with a times tracking requirement and all), but practitioners say it will truly make you and participants mind the time. (And it beats doing planks for the duration of an entire meeting, because there’s that solution...Unless you’re into planks.)
Another popular way to keep meetings to a minimum is to take your meetings (wait for it) standing up! Yes it’s true. Meetings move along a lot more quickly, even decisions are made more crisply, when the group stays on its feet. This is well-demonstrated in the agile programming world where engineer developers manage their daily work in a 15-20 minute ‘scrum’ in front of a white board.
3. Stop the app-avalanche
Lastly, to begin to make collaboration easier for everyone, you can start with yourself. Invest in your most favored communication channel so that colleagues know where they can find you - all the time. Ideally you want to find yourself a single work app that is capable of doing everything you need. Use the same messaging tool when you chat with your coworkers and share files. You won’t lose track of your exchanges because of switching from one app to another. And you will save loads of time and prevent much frustration when you and your team share apps, platforms and expectations.
To learn more about what you can do to reduce the collaboration overload and what you your organization can do at a higher lever, check out Michael Mankins’ article on Harvard Business Review.
Also, if you’re still looking for an all-in-one team collaboration app, look no further. Team-One has you covered. Sign-up for your free 30-day trial today and enjoy a more productive and streamlined collaboration environment for you and your team.