It’s easy to define bad business collaboration. Unclear goals. A lack of clarity. Poor communication. The wrong tools. Not enough tools. Too many tools. Depending on who you ask, you might get any of the above answers.
The reason it’s so easy to define bad business collaboration is that we’ve all experienced it at one point or another.
But even when we know what’s not working, we’re still often in the dark about how to improve.
Why good business collaboration is hard to cultivate
In a recent article for the Harvard Business Review, Francesca Gino explains why many companies struggle with improving business collaboration. They’ll make sweeping changes with collaboration in mind, like creating open office plans or proposing collaboration as a company-wide goal, but the effort often produces minimal results.
According to Gino, companies are essentially approaching the issue of business collaboration with both arms tied behind their backs.
The culprit? A narrow vision of what business collaboration looks like. She explains: “When most organizations strive to increase collaboration, they approach it too narrowly: as a value to cultivate—not a skill to teach.”
How to teach the skill of business collaboration
Companies that excel in business collaboration do two things right. First, they instill the right kind of business collaboration attitude in employees. Then, they establish programs and processes to help employees develop that attitude.
Here are three practical techniques for getting everyone into the collaboration mindset:
Focus on three-way feedback and accountability.
It can’t always be the leader giving feedback to employees and the employees telling the leader their feedback about their peers. Feedback needs to be a virtuous cycle. Leader to the team, team to the leader, and team to team. When everyone agrees to hold each other accountable, that’s how positive collaboration begins.
Remove ambiguity across the board.
When it comes to collaboration, ambiguity is the cause of unexpected events and outcomes. Yet, when we work with others, speak with others, and collaborate with others, we often use ambiguous and indirect language. Instead, for groups to thrive and collaborate, things must be as clear as possible. Set roles and responsibilities. Create measurable goals. And train people to speak with clarity, and ask questions whenever they feel uncertain.
Assume positive intent.
It’s critical to build trust within groups in order to foster better collaboration. One technique for building more trust is to teach employees to always assume everyone has positive intentions and is fully invested in solving the problem at hand. In doing so, judgment is replaced with curiosity, which leads to more positive interactions (and better business collaboration).
- Incentivize Collaboration.
A 2013 study found that individuals have a tendency to forgo collaboration when they are not incentivized to. Humans will typically act in their own interest, but when you throw incentives into the mix, individuals are more likely to see the value in collaborating. Especially if the value provides an actual payoff for them personally.
Business collaboration tools
While teaching others to adopt a collaborative attitude is essential, equipping them with the processes and tools to facilitate communication and teamwork is just as important.
That said, no matter which way you slice it, business collaboration is hard work.
But the return on investment for collaboration done well is huge. That’s where collaboration tools come in. And although some may balk at spending dollars on programs and tools, companies that invest in collaborative working are 5 times more likely to be high performing.
There is one caveat: the tools we select can determine whether we are successful at collaboration.
Many of us use a slew of collaboration tools right now, probably with some combination of project management, communication and documentation. But this poses a new challenge.
The frustrations, inefficiencies and disconnects that occur due to jumping between multiple collaboration tools can lead you to wonder whether you just replaced one problem for another when you began prioritizing collaboration.
Was a to-do left in Google Docs that just didn’t make it into your PM platform? Is your product team using one tool to manage changes, which your service team uses another to talk to customers? Information silos like these are the reason good projects fail at an alarming rate.
One collaboration tool to rule them all
While many of us have suffered with too many collaboration tools, the era of cobbling together our tech stacks is now over.
Instead, one platform may now act as the single source of truth for you, your team and your coworkers for better business collaboration. That includes getting your production and customer support teams all working together.
The results? More workload visibility, centralized communication and better overall collaboration.
No more jumping through hoops trying to find who put what where. No more throwing customer feedback over the virtual fence to product teams. No more copying an email task into a notebook into a PM platform. Instead, everything happens in one place, always.
The trifecta of business collaboration
If you’ve bought the case for a single source of truth and centralizing all your work into one collaboration tool, the next step is to look for one that meets your needs.
There are three core needs—or what we call the trifecta of business collaboration—that every collaboration tool should meet:
1. Project Management
You need a tool that makes project management simple. Look for one that gives you task tracking, workflows, statuses and priority settings to help you manage and track progress, all from within the same tool.
Look for these core features:
- Custom workflows and templates: Either use a best-in-class process template, or customize your own to get work done.
- Filters, priorities and due dates: finding your tasks should be simple, setting custom statuses to flow tasks from one stage to the next in order to hit a deadline should be even simpler.
- Multiple Views: swap between calendar and list views to get a clear picture of the whole process
2. Customer Support
Your tool should provide a help desk solution for handling customer or external requests. You should be able to easily link your customer conversations to tasks and vice versa for closed-loop reporting.
Look for these core features:
- Saved replies: if you get common questions from external users or customers, creating a standardized reply can save you loads of time if the answer is always the same.
- Email forwarding: You’ll want to consolidate all your customer responses into one shared inbox so service agents can quickly and efficiently manage, track, and reply to those inquiries.
- Reporting: It’s important to have the ability to analyze your reply time, measure team performance and track customer sentiment.
3. Bug Tracking
Whether it’s a feature change, a bug fix or something else, you need a tool that gives you a simple yet sturdy bug tracking workflow to follow or let’s you customize your own.
Look for these core features:
- Custom workflows, statuses and priority settings: Regardless of your industry, you want to be able to completely customize your bug tracking workflow to work with your team and your desired outcomes.
- Integrations: keeping your team on track by integrating with common tools like Harvest, Glip, GitHub and Zapier is critical to a solid bug tracking process.
- Issue templates: once you’ve nailed down your process and workflow, turn each issue into a template that streamlines how things are solved to improve team efficiency.
DoneDone: The ultimate business collaboration tool for teams
Simplicity is at the core of everything we do at DoneDone. That’s why we’ve developed a simple issue tracker that has everything you need to work better, together, no matter where in the world you are. From project management to customer support and bug tracking, you can do it all with DoneDone.
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