Archive | May, 2011

Collaboration: The Productivity Puzzle

28 May

Collaboration. Is it a blessing or a curse? The answer: Both, sometimes.

This Harvard Business Review article is a good reminder of the benefits and difficulties of team collaboration. I have to say I’m a fan of the approach defined here as “disciplined collaboration.” This is collaboration with a purpose, intent and timeline. In short, it’s collaboration framed by productivity.

I’ve been around for long enough to experience both sides of this “double-edged sword.” Here are some considerations to help determine whether your workplace’s collaboration is productive or not:

  • At what point does together time stop getting you closer to perfection and start being a pain in the you-know-what? There’s a point of diminishing returns with collaboration, and it’s different with every team and every project. If the results of the collaboration are highly valuable, a large investment of time is appropriate. If the results are more incremental in nature, it’s best to set more boundaries on the time spent collaborating.
  • Is the adage, “Together, we’re better,” always true? I think there are times when working alone can actually be the best approach, followed by a little virtual collaboration by team members after I’ve created a straw man.
  • My current organization, Battelle for Kids, is big on collaboration, and we’ve created some amazing things as a result. But the our leadership frames the collaborative structure by Quinn and Rohrbach’s competing values framework. As long as the organization can sustain the tension between the four sides of the framework — flexibility/discretion vs. stability/control, and internal vs. external focus —  creativity and productivity can co-exist.

What are your experiences with collaboration? Have you felt both sides of the sword?