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Where is Your Team on the Collaboration Maturity Curve?

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Collaboration happens all the time, all around us. It seems quite matter-of-fact, and still it is worth delving into, because collaboration is an essential tool for teams that want to thrive in today’s world of work, especially in the post-pandemic era. In fact, effective collaboration is a learned skill that, when done well, can be seriously impactful.

Collaboration Drives Results

Why should we care about effective collaboration in the first place? A 2014 study conducted for Google by Deloitte found that when employees collaborate effectively:

Teams that collaborate well stand to gain concrete benefits including faster growth and profitability, higher quality outputs, and a culture that espouses learning and innovation:

Faster Growth and Profitability

We’ve all heard the proverb, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This is proven when it comes to the competitive advantage of collaboration in business. Deloitte found that 52% of companies that prioritized collaboration as part of a strategy led by management outgrew their competitors, while only 20% of businesses without a collaboration strategy did so. Deloitte also found that companies that prioritize collaboration are more profitable: “businesses that consider collaboration an important component of their overall business strategy were 4 times more likely to see growth in their bottom line.”

Higher Quality and Greater Efficiency

Teams that collaborate well save time and use the resources at their disposal more effectively. This means that problems are resolved faster, smarter decisions are made, and processes are improved. The efficiency that results from collaboration also means that teams can spend more time delivering the best possible, highest quality product, benefiting the end customer or user as well.

A Culture of Learning and Innovation

Effective collaboration creates an environment in which silos are broken down and trust and transparency increase. This cultivates a culture of continuous improvement, learning, and development, all of which lay the foundation for innovation. Deloitte found that 60% of its survey respondents experienced changes in their way of thinking due to collaboration.

Higher Quality and Greater Efficiency

Teams that collaborate well save time and use the resources at their disposal more effectively. This means that problems are resolved faster, smarter decisions are made, and processes are improved. The efficiency that results from collaboration also means that teams can spend more time delivering the best possible, highest quality product, benefiting the end customer or user as well.

A Culture of Learning and Innovation

Effective collaboration creates an environment in which silos are broken down and trust and transparency increase. This cultivates a culture of continuous improvement, learning, and development, all of which lay the foundation for innovation. Deloitte found that 60% of its survey respondents experienced changes in their way of thinking due to collaboration.

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How Collaboration Reaches Maturity

Teams today have a variety of tools at their disposal to collaborate, but they’re not all the same. Some collaboration tools are focused on helping teams plan, communicate, and track their work. The real value of collaboration, though, the kind that impacts a company’s bottom line or culture of learning, stems from collaboration that elevates performance. We’ve identified three levels of collaboration along the “Collaboration Maturity Curve” that teams need to progress through until they get to elevated performance:

Level 1: Communicate

The first level of collaboration maturity involves strategies and tools that help teams stay in touch more easily. At this level, teams communicate regularly, whether in-person through check-ins, meetings, and casual chats, or online through communication platforms. Team members share information that is helpful to one another, perhaps through programs like Slack or MS Teams, but they continue working independently. The communication may or may not result in a new output.

Level 2: Coordinate

At the Coordinate level, teams can not only stay in touch, but also move projects forward together through collaboration. They move from ongoing communication to coordination that helps them plan, track, and manage a project or task, and see it through to on-time completion. At this level team members may use task or project management platforms like Monday, Jira, or Asana that give them visibility into the entire project’s status, including tasks that they are not personally responsible for. 

Level 3: Elevate

At the third and final level, Elevate, team members work together to lift their own and their peers’ performance by capturing lessons learned in their day-to-day work and implementing corrective actions to drive better outcomes. Ultimately, teams that operate at this level are able to produce at a higher level than they would with communication or coordination alone.

Elevate Your Team’s Collaboration

How can your team get to elevated collaboration? Working with dozens of companies across industries and geographies, we have identified these practical steps that teams, and team leaders in particular, can take to create value through collaboration:

  • Let individual team members take the wheel and drive the way they collaborate, using the specific tools and strategies that work best for them.
  • Seek continuous, real-time feedback from team members.
  • Espouse a culture of transparency that champions the role of each member of the team. While collaboration is a team sport, individuals should get the credit they deserve for parts of a process that they led.

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