Employees like to be productive. They also like to have accomplishment attached to their names.
Defining The Problem
So what’s stopping your employees from being productive? Where in your enterprise collaboration strategy are the failures?
It could be an endless cycle of email inquiries, reports, meetings and other tasks, says Andrew Filev, founder and CEO of Wrike, a provider of project management and collaboration software that has just announced its newest version “Graphite”.
“When there are too many administrative routines to take care of, people can’t fully focus on their main tasks," Filev says. "Everyone’s personal productivity suffers from this, and, consequentially, it slows down your whole team. Sending out requests for status updates and waiting for information slows down everyone. We are all humans, and we want to do something meaningful at our work, not just fight with email, write reports and sit at meetings.”
Maybe team members are not keeping up. Maybe it’s managers who obsess over control, says Tom Petrocelli, research director for enterprise social, mobile and cloud applications at Neuralytix, a New York City-based industry analyst firm specializing in the information technology industry.
Maybe, in the end, it’s a simple “human problem.”
“Tools can’t help bad leadership or a dysfunctional group,” Petrocelli says. “There’s a lot you can do with environment. Look at how IT organizations have changed to support Agile development. More than anything else, it’s the emphasis on team performance over individual performance. We expect people to act as a team and reward them as individuals. Let people choose their collaborators. That will tell you a lot. Academia has done this for years -- individual scientists and scholars choose collaborators which shift from project to project, paper to paper.”
Eliminating Waste, Championing Change
Organizations today are drowning in the mess of disconnected work data, Filev says, and he cites long email chains, unwarranted meetings and other barriers to success.
“You have great teams working hard, but they are stressed out by the efforts they need to take to get everybody synchronized,” Filev says. “The danger for the managers is that they don’t have enough visibility and transparency, and sometimes things can get out of control because of that.”
Cut out the babysitting and secretary stuff, Filev says, and give employees more time to focus on the creative part. Managers should focus on leadership with more visibility into what’s happening. In order to be a champion for change and better collaboration, Filev says organizations must recognize it’s about tools, people and processes.
“Each component is important, and one can’t go without the other,” Filev says.
Keep change simple. If you’ve got a new collaboration tool, don’t overwhelm your employees with a massive number of new tasks.
“Start with a small project, and as long as everybody has access to the tool and is onboard with the simple rules of the game, that’s good enough,” Filev says. “Start using it in a small group, and then scale to the whole team step by step.”
Petrocelli cautions, however, that tools should be used to support a business initiative, and not be a business initiative.
Email Really Dead?
Is email holding back business communication? Should we simply do away with it?
Not so fast, Petrocelli says. And Filev agrees, reminding us email is a tool people use eight hours a day -- you can’t just have employees drop it cold turkey.
“Email’s demise is “greatly exaggerated,” Petrocelli says. “There is no doubt that some people -- often the executives who make IT buy decisions -- are experiencing email overload. That means we have to change email interfaces and add features to help sort things into important and not important email.”
Think of it, Petrocelli says, how Stephen Covey might: We need to figure out what is important and not just what is urgent. Google is doing this with Gmail and SaneBox has a solution that learns what you need to see and what you can wait on.
“Email clients are evolving, not dying,” Petrocelli says, who adds that email is the best way to communicate outside your company.
“Imagine if you had to use the enterprise social network of every company you do business with to communicate,” Petrocelli says. “You would go insane in no time. Email is the least common denominator. It also works darn well.”
Creating a culture of proactive sharing will help your organization boost its social and collaborative platforms, Filev says. Find solutions that allow your organization to collaborate smoothly, share files and provide information and project updates in real-time.
“To make your business truly agile, it’s important to have work status information and project data available instantly, in real-time, and for that people have to share it before the meetings, as things happen,” Filev says.
Ultimately, Petrocelli says, recognize the “productivity killers” in your organization.
“Collaboration is looser than many corporate processes and that makes the rule monkeys unhappy,” Petrocelli says. “Sooner or later, companies have to revisit complex processes and see if there are places where they have tried to regulate what is essentially a dynamic collaboration.”
Title image courtesy of pryzmat (Shutterstock)