The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

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Collaborative Teams

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I’ll admit that as much as I talk about web 2.0 and collaboration networks, collaboration is simply not a set of tools.  Collaboration can be made more efficient with tools and tools can enable certain types of collaboration, but in the end, I think collaboration is about culture and governance.  In my opinion, collaboration starts at the top.  Leadership that is too directive or micro manages cuts off any desire to collaborate.  If your leadership is telling you what to do at every turn, there is no need to problem solve or innovate – they think they know exactly what needs to get done and teams simply execute on tasks.

I actually think that collaboration is about governance and process as well.  How teams can come together to work on a problem and then rise solutions to other teams or levels in a hierarchy can encourage collaboration as well.  While I don’t think that structure and process are needed for collaboration, I do think that structure and process can force teams to collaborate where they otherwise might not.  In the end, collaboration will ultimately be about fostering the right people to build the right networks.  People collaborate because they realize there are other people in the organization that an help them get work or information faster, but structure often helps people establish these connections more quickly.

Consider the issue of size. Teams have grown considerably over the past ten years. New technologies help companies extend participation on a project to an ever greater number of people, allowing firms to tap into a wide body of knowledge and expertise. A decade or so ago, the common view was that true teams rarely had more than 20 members. Today, according to our research, many complex tasks involve teams of 100 or more. However, as the size of a team increases beyond 20 members, the tendency to collaborate naturally decreases, we have found. Under the right conditions, large teams can achieve high levels of cooperation, but creating those conditions requires thoughtful, and sometimes significant, investments in the capacity for collaboration across the organization.  ((

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