A premium is placed on collaboration in many, if not most, large companies. As knowledge and expertise become increasingly specialized, collaboration across functional areas becomes even more critical for successful business results.
At the same time, efficiency is also a priority. Companies feel the pressure of delivering improved speed to market, quick response to changing business factors and the ever-increasing demand to be faster than before.
The challenge is that collaboration and efficiency work against each other. To collaborate requires rounding up people in diverse roles across the company, and usually across geography. Coordinating the schedules of everyone in the group for an in-person meeting or conference call is no easy feat. It’s not always going to happen this week, or even this month.
It’s much faster for one functional unit to make decisions and move on. In Tribe’s national study on collaboration, many respondents cited this time drag as a reason why they often skip the step of getting input from other areas in the company.
But are the right decisions being made? There are no doubt insights the sales team can share about what customers are really looking for; that the programmers can clarify in regards to what the software can really do; or that one division of the company can offer regarding a key customer they share with another division.
This tension between collaboration and speed isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It forces people to set priorities, to weigh the need for one over the other. In most corporate cultures, the pendulum will swing towards one over the other.
One principle for maintaining a balance between the two is to separate the two functions of collaborating and making decisions. When people come together to collaborate, it should be for the purpose of providing their unique expertise, input and feedback. The collaborative meeting is not the place to make decisions. Trying to reach consensus on a decision is not only difficult, it’s unlikely to result in the best decision.
Give everybody a voice, but not a vote. The happy medium – or the Middle Way, as the Buddhists would say – is to invite many different perspectives but not give away the power to make the final determination. The responsibility for decision-making should remain with those who own the project or initiative under discussion.
Interested in balancing collaboration and speed in your company? Tribe can help.