Recently, Harvard Business Review cited some insightful research into team behavior at 15 multinational companies. It found that although these teams tended to be large, virtual, diverse, and composed of highly educated specialists, those same four characteristics made it hard for teams to accomplish their goals. It also showed that complex team members were less likely—absent other influences—to share knowledge freely, learn from one another, shift workloads to break up bottlenecks, or help one another to complete jobs on time or share resources. In other words, to collaborate. The study also looked at teams that exhibited high levels of collaborative behavior. The difference turned out to be in the quality of team leadership.
The eight factors that led to such leadership success were:
- Making highly visible investments in facilities that demonstrate their commitment to collaboration.
- Demonstrating leadership that models collaborative behavior.
- Mentoring and coaching, especially informally, in ways that help people build networks across corporate boundaries.
- Ensuring that collaboration skills have been taught to the team.
- Building and supporting a strong sense of community.
- Assigning team leaders that are both task- and relationship-oriented.
- Building on heritage relationships by putting at least a few people who know one another on the team.
- Sharply defining team roles and individually assigned tasks.
The Emerge Team works to create innovative technology that accelerates the future of work. Since collaboration will be so essential to success, they created TeamTV as a means of exploring the future of collaboration. This next-generation enterprise video collaborative platform integrates with and leverages the WebEx Teams digital collaboration suite. By creating a visually immersive and continuously interactive environment, they’ve discovered the immense value of having a space to interact daily with global teammates as if they were all in one office.
In addition to having a webcam filming the participants, TeamTV provides other useful collaboration tools including:
- The “team mode” version of TeamTV with all members on-screen;
- A “popcorn mode” where all members can watch an event or something communally across distances;
- TeamTV channel ticker, where team-relevant information is available across the bottom of the screen; and
- A virtual assistant bot with facial recognition technology capable of recognizing team members and serving up relevant email and instant messages.
Building collaboration across an enterprise is not a quick job. It requires a combination of long-term relationship building and trust, a culture where senior leaders openly exhibit cooperation and make smart near-term decisions on team formation. Legacy practices that may work well with simple, co-located teams are likely to fail when teams grow more complex. Although most factors that impede collaboration today have always been there, the modern teams that are needed to solve global business challenges require much more diversity, long-distance cooperation, and remote expertise. Project managers would, therefore, do well to update their approach to today’s business challenges by addressing the eight factors listed above.
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