How is it possible to make a crowd of decentralized working individuals interact successfully? What organizational structure does it need for? What information do people require? How can they avoid being flooded by non-valuable information? What tools are supportive or counterproductive? Does it need IT-support and how much? What makes human beeings use those collaboration tools appropriately? And what benefits do the customers actually get from it?
Successful collabarotion needs to answer many questions. It seems to be complex and challenging. To get to know if it’s really that difficult we need to understand the mechanism behind it.
Private and business collaboration are different
Business collaboration is still characterized by presence meetings, paper work, emails and decentralized data management. Face to face is more important than phone/video calls. Writing business emails more convenient than chatting. Ensuring file ownership is safer than open file sharing. And although people use IT systems intensively in daily routine, many aspects of today’s business collaboration are still old style.
The gap between private collaboration and business collaboration seems to get bigger and bigger. Blogging, chatting, file sharing in the cloud and video calls are for most people already private standard. Even grandparents are using those tools to stay in touch with their family members or to publish travel diaries.
Customer demand defines the level of collaboration 2.0
The idea how to improve collaboration is not really new. Neither the digital support. I clearly remember my first experiences with digital collaboration. 15 years ago my former employer started to implement an intranet. Every department had to create an own page to introduce its product & service & process portfolio. The whole enterprise should become more transparent and interacitve. Nice idea but it took many years until the first pages created real value for the company. The reason? A small team created the concept which was not linked to the (unknown) customer demand. Most employees were neither involved in the analysis nor in the conception. And finally the implementation process focused on trainings how to use the technical functions of the intranet.
“Too many organizations repeat their mistakes”
One year later some webbased competence platform was born. Every employee was invited to define his/her competences and competence levels in a database with a search engine. Experts should be known and be found easily. Some other aspect of collaboration. A wonderful idea but 3 years later the database was closed. The initiative failed because the roll out was based on the experiences of a small test group only. The demand of the majority was not really known and the cultural change focused on marketing activities only.
People want to contribute actively
instead of taking over the passive role in the game. Maybe they are allowed to deliver information or experiences in interviews or questionaires. That makes them feel valuable first, because their experience is appreciated. At the same time they feel lost, because the process of interaction ends suddenly. It takes quite often months until they get to know the final concept without any chance for changes. Such a procedure devalues the colleagues from the beginning on although they are the customers who should be treated as a king.
Failing IT projects show similar reasons
If it’s a SAP roll out, the implementation of an Manufacturing Execution System (MES) or the introduction of a SharePoint (Microsoft). The project focus is usually the technology. Neither the people nor the processes to derive the requirements. Change is defined as “using a new software and following the new rules”. That’s it.
“It’s somehow frustrating to see intelligent & highly
qualified people failing again and again”
Even though it’s so simple: As soon as people need to leave their comfort zone we are talking about a change process. Change requires to focus on the people first and on the technology second. The users are major customers of the change project. And they define the customer requirements. They have to be convinced and to be motivated. That’s the task of each manager or better to say leader. It can be easily reached by making them feel valuable and creating personal benefit. Make them contribute in the project. And let them feel that the change makes their lifes easier or better.
Implementing Collaboration 2.0 is even
more challenging than any other IT solution
Many IT systems automate manual processes. The users have to provide the system with certain input or receive output. Interaction takes place primarily with the IT system and less with other people. With Collaboration 2.0 this is completely different.
“Collaboration 2.0 only works if most participants take an active role.”
To bring them into this role it’s even more important that people can sense and feel the personal benefit of the change. Self-motivation is the key to succeed and challenge at the same time.
A well known manager comment is:
“Life is not a bowl of cherries. Why shall I convince everybody? They get paid for it!”
The simple answer:
“Because it makes your own life easier!”
If you convince people that a change is helpful, benefitial or profitabel, they will support the new processes and systems enthusiastically. It becomes a self-driven process instead of pushing the organization again and again.
The collaboration challenge is psychology
Too many managers believe they can succeed by being logical only. That’s a big misunderstanding. Human beings have feelings and those want to be touched. To make them feel satisfied it needs a special project setup, a clear focus on hard and soft facts, a change of perspective and the right toolset.
Introducing Collaboration 2.0 needs
a mix of structure, attitude and behaviour.
Make it work and see you soon…
Greetings from Lake Constance
P.S.: You want to get more details?