Stop, collaborate and listen ?? — Vanilla Ice.
With all due respect to the 1990 rapstar, it’s time to stop with all the collaboration.
We collaborate too much — and it’s leading to burnout. Right now, about 45% of working adults say they’re stressed, a Gallup poll found.
An overload of collaboration is the issue.
Culprit: Too much collaboration
Work demand hasn’t increased as much as the “collaborative demands” of the work.
What’s that? It’s the number and frequency of meetings, meetups, chats, emails, approvals, take-a-look-at-this moments, follow ups and circle-backs.
And all of that collaboration leads to a higher potential for misunderstanding, miscommunication and misalignment.
We can’t get out of our own ways to get $#!t done.
So here are six areas where collaboration goes astray — and ways to avoid the issues.
Many organizations have structural complexity. Over time, teams have gotten too big, too intertwined or too governed by archaic protocols. So everyone involved in a project collaborates, connects or gets approval from everyone else before something actually happens — and that takes forever.
Tip: Use employee surveys, electronic communication tracking and 360-degree feedback to uncover problems in your hierarchical structure, protocols and communication habits. Identify where you’re redundant and inefficient — and dole up ways to fix those areas.
Consider who’s ‘hit up’ the most
When you dig deeper into what causes too much collaboration, you’ll likely recognize the people who are the “overburdened helpers” — those who are asked to collaborate too much and too often. Almost always, it’s because they’re extra-milers who have connections and knowledge that others need, according to another Harvard study. Problem is, their time and energy are zapped.
Tip: Once you identify the overburdened helpers, encourage them to introduce people who want to collab to someone else who can help starting immediately. What’s more, encourage them to put boundaries on how often and when they respond to requests to collaborate — aka, help.
Check your workflows
What made sense just a year ago — and definitely a few years ago — might not make sense for your workflows anymore. Another thing that causes teams to collaborate too much and bring on stress: complex, outdated or unnecessary technology.
Tip: This is a team activity. Ask everyone (and no, you don’t have to collab!) to submit a list of technology, platforms and processes that seem to add additional, unnecessary work and/or complexity. Then, agree on a new set of simpler, team collaborative norms.
Check your physical space
In that second Harvard study, researchers found the physical location of team members impacts the effectiveness of collaboration. Relying on email, communication apps and meetings can burden collaboration and bring on stress. What works better? Brief, impromptu meetings.
Tip: When possible, put highly interdependent employees physically closer together when they’re working on-site. This allows for more brief and impromptu face-to-face collaborations, which turns into a more efficient exchange of resources.
Too much collaboration is often the result of too many protocols. People who should have authority to make decisions don’t, so they need to work with others — disrupting both sides — to get something done.
Tip: The easy answer is to give employees more leverage to make decisions and act without approval. But, if that’s not possible, try this: Assign one go-to manager for approvals and/or requests, resulting in fewer people involved in collaboration and forward movement.
Check your team size
There’s a reason you’ve never seen a statue of a committee. Fewer qualified people tend to get more done than a larger group of lesser-qualified. As team sizes increase, so does collaboration, and efficiency decreases.
Another element: When teams get bigger, smaller sub-teams form — and more communication, collaboration and stress get in the way of progress.
Tip: Check the size of your teams. If it’s big enough that you see sub-teams forming, it might be time to break it down into just enough for one pizza at the next meeting.