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Work Management for Teams

Are You Building a Collaborative Culture?

Learn 6 effective ways for bringing together teams and organizations

Published By Liz Llewellyn-Maxwell
collaborative culture analogy of a crew team

A collaborative culture is crucial for building high-performing teams and organizations. Many employees prefer to work collaboratively, but fostering teamwork is not just about making employees happy. Successful collaboration also drives better business results. 

For example, a study by i4cp, the leading human capital research firm, showed that high-performing organizations are 5.5 times more likely to encourage and reward collaboration. By working together effectively, various employees contribute their individual expertise to achieve shared successes. 

A collaborative culture allows you to maximize employee strengths and knowledge. 

When collaboration is highly valued and ingrained into the culture of an organization, employees benefit through more engaging, enjoyable work. The organization benefits from a collaborative culture by achieving greater productivity and better products or services. 

How to Build a Collaborative Culture 

Fostering a culture of collaboration isn’t always easy. Organizations may struggle to build a collaborative environment because of competing priorities and unclear expectations. But organizations can succeed by implementing these six components of a truly collaborative culture. 

1. Prioritize relationships 

People are better able to collaborate effectively with people they know and trust, so look for ways to facilitate strong relationships between team members. That may mean creating physical spaces that foster serendipitous conversations, implementing regular in-person meetings (even if they’re held on Zoom), or scheduling fun activities for team members to get to know each other better in a relaxed environment. 

Gallup research shows that employees who have valued relationships at work are much more engaged than those who don’t and are more driven to take actions that benefit the business. 

Rather than foregoing social conversations or neglecting to check in with employees on non-work matters, organizational leaders should seek out opportunities to connect with employees and encourage relationship building – both among team members and between themselves and their teams. 

2. Use the right tools 

Technology makes it easy for teams to collaborate, whether they are located down the hall or around the world from each other. The right software can facilitate a collaborative culture that works for a specific team. In fact, 83 percent of knowledge workers depend on technology to collaborate, according to one study. 

But using software to collaborate with each other is only part of the equation. 

To build a collaborative culture, you need a software solution that will not only enable employees to work together but also break down the specific barriers to collaboration that they experience in their day-to-day work. 

For example, maybe an obstacle shows up in communication delays. One way to address the slow response time is to shift conversations from email to direct messaging, which can increase the speed and convenience of discussing topics virtually. 

Most often, bigger collaboration obstacles exist than those created by inefficient communication. 

The thorniest of barriers appear in how teams plan their work, break down and collaborate on tasks, handle the review/QA process, or track progress. The key is to find a software solution that resolves as many of your organization’s collaboration barriers as possible, by enabling you to get work done all in one place

3. Foster a mindset of servant leadership 

Leaders who want their teams to work together effectively must set an example of valuing a collaborative culture. That means managers must communicate with their employees, asking for their opinions and ideas, as well as their roadblocks that need resolution. And rather than always working independently, managers must also collaborate with other team members. 

Finally, leaders must step back and allow team members the space to collaborate and iterate, rather than micro-managing each initiative. 

In Agile, these and other characteristics are grouped under the umbrella of a “servant leader” mindset – a set of practices that, among other advantages, enables leaders to more effectively identify and mitigate risks that are impacting team and organizational outcomes. 

You can learn more about what it means to be a servant leader in the Agile Manager’s Handbook

4. Clearly identify roles 

An organization with a highly collaborative culture must have a clear collaboration strategy, including specific goals and defined roles. Make sure employees at every level understand their responsibilities for working together and what their role in collaborating should look like. 

For instance, your organization may want to make it clear that every employee’s voice will be heard, but not every idea can be implemented and ultimate decisions rest with team leaders. 

Also, collaboration should not be expected only by employees at certain levels within the organization. Truly collaborative organizations expect teamwork at every level and from across all departments and business units. 

5. Examine your rewards system 

If collaboration and teamwork are truly valued components of your organization’s culture, those components should be included in your rewards system. For instance, if one employee is rewarded for great results achieved while working as a “lone wolf” rather than collaboratively, other employees will question whether they should continue trying to collaborate. 

Instead, focus on rewarding teams that work well together, initiatives that align different departments, and results that are achieved as the result of collaboration. 

6. Encourage feedback 

It will likely take time and effort to build a collaborative culture, including stops and starts. If an organization’s various business units have traditionally worked in isolation from each other and employees have regularly worked alone, creating habits of collaboration can be challenging. 

Take time to survey employees about how their collaborative efforts are going, and provide team-building activities or other reinforcements to ensure that employees have the tools and information they need to collaborate effectively and continuously. 

Bringing it all Together 

Whether employees are working on site, remotely, or in an increasingly common hybrid work arrangement, collaborating with co-workers will continue to be vital to the modern workforce. Organizations that work to create a genuine culture of collaboration, embedding the value of teamwork across everything they do, will continue to be the top performers. 

An effective way to break down collaboration barriers is by planning, managing, and visualizing the progress of your collaborative work. Whether your teams use traditional project management methodologies, Lean and Agile methodologies, or a hybrid of both, Planview will enable your teams to deliver their best work

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Written by Liz Llewellyn-Maxwell Sr. Content Strategist

Liz is a content strategist at Planview. She worked at LeanKit prior to the company being acquired by Planview. With more than 7 years’ of Agile experience, Liz passionately believes in the transformative power that practicing Lean-Kanban principles can have on teams and organizations.