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Getting the most out of each employee is an essential facet of modern leadership.  In a knowledge age it makes complete sense to ensure that your employees, and indeed external stakeholders, are pulling in the right direction and working effectively together.

It’s sadly the case however that many collaboration efforts fail to achieve the results expected of them (assuming that is that most have a measurable ROI in the first place!).  Earlier this year for instance, Gartner revealed that 80% of social business projects fail to achieve the results they expected.  That’s not good.  That’s not good at all.

With failure so commonplace, I thought I’d share some of the most common forms of collaboration failure with you.

  1. Overhyping – Gartner themselves coined the hype cycle, and collaboration has certainly fallen foul of it in recent years.  Collaboration is unlikely to be the silver bullet that will solve all of your problems, and this will especially be the case if you’re doing it in such a way that it can’t be measured.
  2. Undercosting – Collaboration is generally not the most expensive thing to try and implement.  There may be some software costs, but they’re not huge.  Collaboration does however come with significant political costs.  You’re trying to break down siloes that may have emerged over many years.  Overcoming that is no small feat, and the political skill required to do so should not underestimated.
  3. Overcollaborating – Some organisations fall into the trap of believing that every single task should be team orientated.  Such environments typically emerge because managers are not clear what it is they want to achieve from people working together, so end up collaborating for the sake of collaborating.  The results are seldom good.
  4. Getting the problem wrong – Collaboration should be the solution to a problem, so if you get the problem wrong in the first place, you’re off to a pretty bad start.  A common error people fall into is assuming that people will gladly collaborate, if only they’re given the right tools or software to do so.  The reality could be that there are very real human and cultural reasons why people aren’t currently working collaboratively.  Whatever your situation, try and approach it scientifically and don’t assume the problem is what you believe it to be.
  5. Applying the wrong solution – This often goes along with misdiagnosing the problem.  Software companies can often browbeat companies down this path because it’s very easy to try and shoehorn a software product onto a problem that it isn’t really that suited to solving.  Remember that software, social networks and their like are merely tools, and they’re tools that you’re not obligated to use.  Figure out your problem first and then figure out the best solution for it.  If that means no whizzy software, that’s ok.

These are probably the most common collaboration traps organisations fall into.  Let me know if you have any more via the comments.

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About

Adi Gaskell is an old school liberal with a love of self organising systems. He holds a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and is an experienced community builder. He specializes in community cultivation and using social media to create social organisations. He has written on this topic for publications such as HRMToday, Professional Manager, Smart Brief, Social Media Today and edits the Social Business Zone at DZone.com.