Collaboration starts when you have the right people working together.
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Collaboration can be incredibly productive, leading to more creative ideas and more efficient workflows. It’s a chance for your team members to come together, exchange ideas and ultimately get more done than they could individually.
But this strategy can also waste time if you collaborate ineffectively. Even worse, it’s going to waste time multiplicatively; if you waste time in a 30-minute meeting with 5 attendees, you’ll waste 2.5 man-hours total. This is why ineffective meetings are frequently seen as an egregious waste of time.
So what steps can you take to make sure your team can collaborate efficiently?
Choose the right platforms
Your first goal is to choose the right platforms for collaboration. The right cloud storage solution can make it easier for employees to store files, share files and work on files together in a live collaborative session. The right communication platform can make it easier for employees to exchange ideas, engage in dialogue and refer to previous meetings.
Generally, the best collaborative platforms have a few things in common:
- An intuitive UI. It should be easy for any newcomer to pick up and use this platform with minimal training. Otherwise, at least some of your employees are going to struggle to use it — or fail to use it in the ways you intend.
- Live collaborative features. Employees need to be able to interact with each other and work together in real-time. Some platforms encourage this with communication features, while others allow multiple employees to edit documents and other files simultaneously.
- Convenient archiving and tracking. Good platforms make it easy for employees to observe and analyze past efforts that have been made. They can revert to previous versions, read previous conversation threads and consult archives to learn more.
Select the right participants
Collaboration starts when you have the right people working together. Initially, your burden will be hiring the right people. That means searching for people who have strong skillsets, good attitudes and a real desire to work with other people. From there, your goal is to assemble the right teams, putting people together when they complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
It’s also important to choose the right people for the right project. Don’t put too many people together on a single assignment, and minimize time waste by keeping areas of specialty in mind when selecting participants.
Minimize group time
When possible, minimize the amount of time people spend together in groups. Collaboration is powerful, but many people wasting time together is exponentially more wasteful than a single individual wasting time. If you want to meet, do so sparingly and keep the duration of meetings restricted to a 30-minute or 15-minute slot. If you want to work together on a shared document, only allocate a fraction of your productive time to this group assignment.
Always have a goal
When working with other people, have a specific, stated goal in mind. What are you trying to accomplish today? Why are you all here? Too often, meetings are held for their own sake; people are gathered to discuss a general topic or “touch base.” But if you want these meetings and collaborative sessions to be effective, they need to be directed. You need to set an objective and work to achieve it together.
Allow for prep time
Similarly, it’s important to give people prep time before they meet with each other, so you waste less time during the meeting. Don’t force people to come up with ideas on the fly during a collaborative session. Instead, let them come up with ideas independently, then allow them to share and discuss those ideas during a team session.
Listen to all ideas
Speaking of ideas, make sure you make time to hear out all ideas from all participants. Actively listening and keeping an open mind will encourage each member of your team to participate more consistently. And more importantly, you’ll have a better chance of stumbling on the “right” idea.
Collect (and implement) feedback
You may have a series of objective metrics that can help you estimate the productivity of a team-based work environment. But you’ll get even better information in the form of live feedback from the people engaging in that collaboration.
Provide your employees with opportunities to give feedback about their collaborative experiences. What seems to be working well? What could be improved? Do they have ideas for how you can improve collaboration?
Once you gather feedback, make time to implement it whenever you can do so within budget and in a reasonable amount of time. Gradually, and together, you and your team will be able to build the perfect collaborative environment.