Anybody can run a team, but few people know how to run an efficient team.
The difference between the two are obvious; like two sailing ships racing on the open sea. A ship whose crew is constantly at odds and doesn’t cooperate will always lag behind the ship with the more united and coordinated crew.
Businesses are the same way. Bad team collaboration wastes the time and effort of employees at all levels, be they junior, middle management, or executive.
What are the signs of bad team collaboration?
If you’ve ever wondered whether or not your team is suffering from bad collaboration, there are many red flags you should look for. Here are some of the most important:
No engagement during meetings. Do people in your meetings seem distracted and preoccupied? That’s because they’re probably thinking of what else they could be doing now, and wondering if the meeting is relevant to them.
Double or needless work. Has anyone one your team ever spent significant time on a task, only to be told it wasn’t necessary anymore because the project plan had changed and nobody had told them? That’s a sure-fire sign of poor communication, and happens far more often than people are willing to admit.
Botched project handoffs. This is the equivalent of a relay runner tossing the baton at the next runner instead of taking the time to properly turn over project files and brief the next team on what they need to know. As a result, the project manager doesn’t know what’s going on and the new team can’t figure out where everything is.
Communication issues affecting project performance. Projects fail, get cancelled, or get delayed for many reasons, true. But drill down to the core issue, and you’ll probably find that most of the problems are caused by team members who couldn’t communicate properly or find common ground.
All these issues come at a cost, and it isn’t just morale that pays the piper:
How much wasted time does bad communication cost?
Poor project communication has very real and tangible costs to your company. Based on our experience, we’ve calculated the time-wasting costs to be as follows:
- Each poorly-executed meeting makes the team lose an average of 10 hours due to unclear goals and scattered efforts.
- Every hour of wasted work makes the team lose 20 hours
- Each time a botched handoff occurs, it costs the team 50 hours of clarifying information and getting on-track.
- Each delayed/canceled/failed project costs 100 hours of work.
- If your company has more than 250 people, the costs for each of these scenarios get doubled.
That’s a staggering amount of productive work lost, all due to bad team collaboration.
Shouldn’t you fix that?
Tips for eliminating bad team collaboration
Don’t worry if your team is suffering from bad collaboration. You can get your company ship-shape again with just a few carefully applied changes.
- More efficient meetings: Meetings are the curse of every organization, except if you run them well. Observe the following rules when running a meeting:
- Start and end meetings on time: Even students need to start classes on time, so why are you letting your meetings creep into different time slots? Hold firm to the proposed start and end times. Be considered of other people’s schedules and learn how to fit the agenda into the designated time slots.
- Have an agenda and stick to it: It helps to have a common agenda format to establish structure so that team members know what to expect.
- Don’t get sidetracked: If an unplanned conversation comes up, table it for another time (or add it to next meeting’s agenda).
- Use Needed/Optional attendance standards: Sometimes you would like to invite people to meetings out of courtesy, or because it would be good for them to know what’s going on. In those cases, mention if a person’s presence is “needed” or “optional” in the meeting invitation. “Optional” allows the attendee to judge for themselves whether or not their attendance is required.
- Clearly communicate work changes: Any significant changes to your project plan need to be promptly and effectively communicated to the team. We find this is best done using project management tools like Trello or Asana.If it’s not urgent but still warrants deeper discussion, you can introduce it as an agenda item during your live meeting.When you communicate the change, make sure you mention the details of the change and identify who is responsible for it moving forward. This helps keep team members on the ball and minimizes botched handoffs. Speaking of which…
- Improve how you manage handoffs: The handoff process is potentially one of the trickiest parts of a project. Departing project teams are often afflicted with the curse of knowledge, in which they assume that the on-boarding team already knows information that the original team had to build up over time. This can lead to incomplete briefings, dropped tasks, and mistaken assumptions.At the onset of every new project/end of an existing one, bring both teams together into one place to conduct a thorough turnover meeting. During this meeting, explain each team members’ function and recognize all contributions made by the original team. Give the on-boarding team plenty of time to ask questions of the original team–especially between role counterparts who have specific concerns.A dedicated project management system will go a long way towards documenting everything that has occurred up to this point, as well as managing the timelines of the project moving forward. Make sure both teams have unfettered access to this software and encourage them to make a habit of updating the system with new information whenever possible.
Bad team collaboration wastes hours and bleeds morale, but if you leverage the above tips you’ll be able to plug any glaring holes in communication and keep a tight ship.