Successful teams across borders – PART 3 – working collaboratively!

It’s not about communication but collaboration! Effective communication is a tool for working collaboratively and building a high-performing team. In fact, research has shown that effective teams often communicate less than other teams because they have developed a shared understanding.
So, what are the criteria of collaboration?
  • Ownership of shared goals,
  • Relationships with a purpose,
  • Commitment to one another-s success (T.E.A.M = Together Everyone Achieves More).


And why collaboration is so difficult? Because, in order to collaborate effectively we need to break a lot of boundaries. And breaking these boundaries is more difficult when connecting through electronic devices and face-to face communication is limited.
What kind of boundaries need to be broken? A few examples below:
Individual (age, gender, ethnic background, personal, native language, assumptions, values etc). If you are working in another country you probably experience quite often people speaking their native language and you have no clue what they are talking about. Maybe about you-How do you feel?
Geographic ( time-zones, political environment, culture, different country value system  – example: students in Poland cheating during their exams) Task – related (different understanding what’s need to be done) Organisational (hierarchical, political, etc). Functional organization promotes silo thinking, where collaboration is very difficult. The goals of departments are more important than project objectives, so practically it is  not possible to implement a project management framework where multifunctional cooperation is critical!
Technical (different technology or standard).
„The Handbook of High-Performance Virtual Teams” I had mentioned in my previous post gives us a
5 step framework how to overcome these boundaries:
1. Create a collaborative organisation. Both work structure and processes need to support collaboration. Build your structure to eliminate the silo thinking. The work can be done in modules (teams work on their parts and then meet to review/implement what has been completed or iteratively ?engage in back-and-forth development cycles).
2. Create a supportive culture. Each of us is unique! We see the world through different lenses – we have different backgrounds, were brought up in different countries, studied different subjects, were exposed to different cultures etc. What is obvious or logical for Poles might not be so obvious for someone from other continent or even another country. Example: when we need to work on something on our own for a couple of hours and we do not want our client to wait and watch our hands we usually suggest to go for a coffee or shopping and come back ” don’t we We don’t really mean that someone needs to drink coffee (maybe does not like) or go shopping, but this is a polite way of saying: „leave me alone please as I need to concentrate on the task and will feel uncomfortable you watching me when working”. But in some cultures the second, direct answer would be more appropriate. Let me share one more example. A few weeks ago I was having dinner in a restaurant with my friends. When we finished our dessert, the waitress asked if we liked it. My friend answered: „the sauce was very sweet, I expected coffee sauce to be not so sweet. „Mine was delicious, very sweet too, but I love sweet” I responded.
A culture can be defined as a shared set of values, believes and norms and to change it takes time, so remember:
  • Recognize the differences the culture creates , be interested and open!
  • Changing culture is changing how people act!
  • Team Charter can help!
  • Culture of creativity is important element of building a collaborative culture! More on creativity in my next post!
3. Knowledge sharing & Management system. Create a culture of information/knowledge sharing and make it available for everyone. I use the sharepoint or dropbox for storage shared documents, the HUB or other social media/blogs for exchanging and sharing information, raising questions etc and wikis sharing knowledge.
4. Define New Leaders
Today’s leader builds relationships, is  interested in others success,  is emotionally intelligent, gives positive and constructive feedback, coach and teach other to perform their best, is exceptional communicator and listener and provide formal and informal recognition. Moreover, focuses on process and outcome, and by that we do not mean „task focus”, control or micromanagement, but rather keeping himself and team on track and motivated (trust). And last but not least is a learner by nature ” demonstrates attitude what can I learn? rather than who’s to blame? and recognizes and respects cultural differences.
5. Align and sustain support system
Both hard and soft infrastructure is crucial and leadership is a key element of the support system, followed by learning and measurements. As a leader make decisions and model behaviours that promote team effectiveness. Tip: Align the support system with needs of your team!

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