Matrix Management / Virtual Teams

Are you suffering from collaboration overload?

If so, you’re not alone.  Knowledge workers estimate they now have to interact with more than 10 people per day to do their job, and two thirds reported a significant increase in the amount of collaboration required, according to recent research by the Corporate Executive Board. In many cases this is has been to the detriment of innovation and productivity.

For example CEB’s research shows that with major purchasing decisions, the likelihood of a purchase being completed is only 31% when more than five buyers can influence the decision, compared to over 50% if five or fewer have their say.

A typical symptom of collaboration overload is attending an ever-burgeoning number of meetings – sound familiar? Luckily help is at hand, with Global Integration’s new book ‘Kill Bad Meetings’ sharing how to cut the meetings we go to by 50% and make the ones we do attend useful and engaging.

Dealing with the underlying causes of collaboration and meeting overload firstly involves managers and leaders simplifying the way people are set up to work together, so that they only collaborate on things that truly need multiple input.

Secondly we need to push decision making rights as close as we can to the front line.

Thirdly, we must give individuals (and ourselves) permission to break the habit of automatically saying ‘yes’ to a request for help.  Other options are:

  • Saying no, and…
  • Introducing the person to someone else who could help (making sure they’re not also overburdened)
  • Referring them to written sources of information – such as searching threads on online collaboration tools that may have previously explored the question
  • Or reducing the time requested by half

Some companies use a ‘triage’ system, whereby one person each week has a reduced amount of project work and instead is in charge of intercepting all requests for help or collaboration and divvying them up between the team depending on availability – similar to nurse triage in hospital wards.

Finally, we have to watch out for associating being ‘busy’ and ‘in demand’ with being successful. In a recent Global Integration session we shared the notion that a key driver of status in business is the amount of e-mail you get (the other being length of service). This caused great hilarity as the audience had attended a presentation the evening before where a senior director was telling them about the 750 e-mail he gets every day.

One size fits no-one, so out of these options why not pick one thing to do differently today to stay afloat in the sea of collaboration that surrounds you.


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