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It’s the dream isn’t it?
Everyone working together in perfect harmony, achieving a collaborative network that positively affects productivity.

Like every good dream it is possible.

With some planning and vision you can soon have your team working together as one!

So what exactly is the formula to achieving a culture of collaboration?

Although every company has a slightly different take on this, the businesses who achieve success also share some common ground.

Building a culture of collaboration top-down

If your company leaders do not share the ethos of collaboration, then building this culture becomes extremely difficult.

This is definitely the view of ExecuNet, who discussed in an interview with Forbes how “Staff looks to leadership to set the tone ... If the passion, commitment and follow-through are missing, the workforce knows it.

It’s not just a matter of leading by example (although that is important), but employing a management team that believes in the culture they are cultivating.

Having the right team leaders in place also plays a part in the success of the collaboration. Marriott work hard to develop team leaders who are both relationship and task focused.

Discussed in a study completed by Harvard Business Review, the company found that having a leader that possessed both these skills led to a more productive and innovative teams.

Leadership is also instrumental in inspiring the team. Setting a vision, while sustaining their mission through achieving their goals, needs to be maintained and built upon.

Market forces will dictate changes and fluctuations to the overall plan, but if the leadership can keep their vision throughout without losing focus, the team will be inspired to follow.

The imperative element of collaboration: good communication

Talking is a tool that everyone uses, but how many leaders utilize their ears effectively?

Listening to your employees and making them a part of the process from the very start is crucial for successful collaboration.

The example of Booz Allen Hamilton, used as a case study over and over again for employee engagement, when changes were made to the strategy it resulted in engagement levels sinking to all-time lows.

Communication speed also plays a part in the process. Being able to connect quicker with each other while sharing necessary documents and ideas can be instrumental in increasing collaboration.

Unisys are a good example of this. The company used an enterprise social media strategy to increase communication speeds, performance planning and collaboration on projects. The end result - an enhancement in their work processes.


Related reading: The Benefits of a Centralized Communication

The culture of transparency - pillar of collaboration

Transparency relates to the sharing of all information and facts, even if those that are more controversial or complicated.

Honesty and openness are two other components of transparency, plus allowing team members the freedom to have a conversation.

It helps to build trust and mutual respect through the removal of barriers, and making ideas, skills and knowledge accessible to all.

Learning from each other’s mistakes and successes is easier when a company is transparent in their actions.

Without transparency, it is is easy to duplicate work or harbor issues that prevent the project moving forward. The end result is a lack of collaboration across the team, leading to long term decreased productivity. If the decision making process is not transparent, companies are likely to be impeded in making positive actions for the future.

In fact, transparency is crucial in building trust through sharing and collaboration. The main assets of a business are information and people, both of which should clearly and effectively be used to maximum effect.

Building a sense of community

A strong sense of community goes along way to increasing collaboration.

Companies such as Marriott, although large, still hold on to a strong sense of family and community. They regularly hold social events, some planned and others of a more spontaneous nature.

All share a sense of fun and community, despite the size of the organization. Not only do they help to build a sense of belonging, but also strengthen the firm’s values.

Google are renowned for their company perks, and have been awarded the best company to work for on several occasions.

With a colourful and lively workspace, free lunches, the odd massage thrown in and other extras as part of the package, Google has spent a small fortune on building that collaboration. Yet the results speak for themselves; as one of the leading businesses in the world, their employees are motivated and productive.

Think about it; you go to work and are stuck in your own space. When you meet at the water cooler all you hear is moaning. Or - enter your bright and open workspace, where everyone has a happy word for each other. At lunch there’s an impromptu baseball challenge.

Which environment encourages you to work more productively with your colleagues?

Foster collaboration through individual growth

Your business is constantly moving and changing, and you and your team have to adapt to this as it happens. Not only that, but employees do not necessarily understand the concept of a collaborative culture and need further training to enhance their skills.

Certain skills, such as being able to communicate effectively, appreciating the opinions of others, resolving conflicts in a constructive and productive way, and managing programs and tasks, are all crucial to the success of this type of culture.

Companies that develop and train their teams not only in industry skills, but also in collaborative aspects, ensure their teams have a better chance of cooperating with each other.

PricewaterhouseCoopers for example, have integrated a successful training strategy that includes networking, teamwork, coaching, social responsibility and communication, a scheme that has already helped to build healthy and productive partnerships.

Coaching, mentoring and support are also important factors of this development. When every team member, regardless of position in the company, takes responsibility for coaching, mentoring and supporting other members, the team learns to respect each other.

At the same time it helps to build a sense of equality, as each person learns from the other throughout the process. Taking time to reflect on the development process helps to cement exactly what has been achieved.

The culture of collaboration - achievable step by step

When building a collaborative culture it is vital that management initiate and cultivates the culture through applying all its aspects as an example, which will naturally cascade down amongst their employees.

Every member must feel appreciated as an equal part of the team, while being able to develop collaboration related skills.

Taking away the boundaries to provide clear and consistent communication channels ensures all the team feel involved.

Making your workplace a pleasurable place to be, while throwing in some humor and fun along the way, helps reinforce all the other aspects of a collaborative culture.

As the saying goes - ”a smile goes a long way”...

More articles about Collaboration:
- Foster Idea Generation Through Deeper Collaboration
- 8 Ways to Improve Team Communication

Mattias Le Cren
Content marketing & growth hacking advocate. I'm heavily into tech and football. Ping me on twitter: @lecrenm
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