Culture & Competency

WWPYCBW: Strategy and People (September 5, 2008)

Collaboration as Strategy
Les addresses CEOs and calls out the business value of collaboration technology and approaches. “When a business works out how to use collaboration tools properly, it can open up an entirely new way of improving resource allocation, driving innovation, getting closer to customers and partners, taking costs out of the business and reducing time-to-market. Collaboration, based on the network as the platform, is even able to help reduce the impact of business on the environment.” Note that Les is from Cisco, so there’s a strong message around TelePresence in the article.

Virtual Team Moves
The Institute for Corporate Productivity recently completed a survey on virtual teams, finding that companies are expecting an increased use of this organizational form. Key challenges: “Indeed, the major challenges posed by the use of teams are led by the idea that virtual teams are too difficult to manage, with 35% of respondents overall ranking it first on a high/very high scale. Thirty-one percent of respondents feel that coordinating schedules is problematic, and a like percentage noted that they feel their company’s technology tools are inadequate for team meetings. The element considered most critical for team performance – cited by 96% of companies as being critical to a high or very high extent – was listening skills. Trust was ranked as high or very high by 92% of respondents, followed by the ability to establish actionable items at 87% and group facilitation skills at 78%. Consensus-seeking skills, cultural awareness and a sense of humor all have more than two-thirds of respondents saying they are critical to a high or very high extent.

Collaboration and Leadership
Distributed collaboration makes leadership challenges more acute. “Collaboration is hard today because of conflicting priorities and blurred boundaries. Consider distributed software development with developers working in different countries and sometimes for different organizations. How do you mobilize people to focus on what’s most important? Whom do they listen to? How can you hold people accountable when there are so many factors in play?” Kristin outlines two types of problems: technical and adaptive. “Tackling adaptive challenges is daunting. Rather than relying on problem solving by people in senior authority positions, solutions to adaptive challenges are developed by key stakeholders across multiple organizations, and require experimentation. New business models, interoperability and increasingly complex technology all place new demands to get work done. The appropriate leadership behavior, which can be exercised by anyone in the organization, involves finding ways to break through the status quo that are built on the success patterns of the past and become rooted in the organization’s culture, preventing progress in the new context. With adaptive challenges, just asking for collaboration will not be enough to force systemic trade-offs. The key is to mobilize people and influence them to face facts they don’t want to face. You are challenging values, beliefs and behaviors that were essential to past success but must be discarded in order to move forward.

Quick Links
– One tip to improving the performance of virtual teams: address uncertainty.

Categories: Culture & Competency