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3 Steps To Better Remote Collaboration

After the COVID-19 crisis hit America, competitors like Ford and GE joined forces to manufacture medical equipment. Rival NYC chefs combined resources to provide take-out to loyal customers and paychecks to loyal employees. Big pharma firms like Gilead and Novartis began sharing data with the collective goal of discovering a vaccine.

If this level of openness and cooperation is currently missing from your own organization, obstacles to collaboration could be the culprit. To get to the root of those barriers, consider leading your teams through one or all of the following remote exercises.

1. Survey + Solve. Get real talk from team members on why collaboration isn’t working when you leverage the polling or voting feature in your virtual-meeting platform. When one of our clients in the professional-services space recently deployed this exercise, it presented the following three questions to employees for anonymous reply:

·     What’s preventing you from making collaboration part of your remote workday?

·     In your opinion, what are your team’s biggest barriers to collaborating with X or Y teams?

·     What would compel you to continuously engage in collaborative behavior?

The survey revealed gaps between leaders’ goals and team priorities. It also compelled discussion around ways to incentivize and reward collaborative behavior in a remote setting. With your own teams, use this survey exercise to identify obstacles to collaboration — and remove them virtually. 

2. Turn impossibilities into realities. This technique is called From Impossible to Possible, and it’s designed to get people’s issues out in the open and provide a framework for thinking constructively about solving those issues. During a virtual meeting with all levels of employees, start by asking the group to choose one of three categories of Impossibilities. (If it’s tough to decide on a category, choose the one that relates to the most crucial issue that you’re aware of.)

·     What will never happen in our industry?

·     What would customers say we would never do for them?

·     What cultural or organizational changes would never happen in our company?

Now, divide the group of participants in half and ask only Group A to brainstorm as many Impossibilities in the chosen category as they can. Group A’s Impossibilities can be submitted via the chat box feature or shouted out and captured by a scribe. After 15 minutes of brainstorming, direct Group B to review the list of Impossibilities and think critically about how they’d turn those Impossibilities into Realities. Where would they start? What resources would they need? Keep gathering solutions from Group B until they’ve solved as many of Group A’s Impossibilities as they can.

I’ve facilitated this exercise thousands of times, and I’m consistently impressed by the human capacity to creatively problem-solve. Detailing what can’t happen — the Impossibilities — actually creates a path to discovering what can. And bringing other perspectives into the solution process offers a lowkey demonstration of how powerful teamwork can be.

3. Collaborate by example. To shift the concept of collaboration from empty talk to observable walk, remotely guide your leadership team through a technique called Commit to Collaboration. Its purpose is to get your entire org out of their silos through non-random acts of collaboration. Start by posing these questions to leaders:

·      What three activities can you start doing today to be more collaborative? Sample activities include “I’ll devote X hours a week to collaborating with Y department or Z person” or “I’ll mentor X number of teams or individuals.”

·     As an influencer in our organization, what three daily actions will you take to encourage collaborative behavior from other employees? Sample actions include “share my own works-in-progress with other business units for input and expertise” or “constantly communicate collaborative outcomes and opportunities across the org.”

·     What three collaborative accomplishments will you help the org achieve a year from now? Sample accomplishments include “I’ll establish an annual award for the team with the most impressive collaborative achievement” or “I’ll propose an external collaboration with a company in X industry or Y sector.”

To encourage accountability, consider adding a data point in performance reviews that measures employees’ collaborative behavior. Or ask teams to submit quarterly updates on their collaborative activity. In times of crisis, collaboration — with different departments, other offices, even competitors — can help us reach goals faster and more economically. How will you know if it’s actually happening? A few weeks from now, you should see evidence of silos breaking down and individuals or teams including each other in meetings, decision-making and projects.

Source: Forbes Business

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