How teams & organizations define, communicate, and collaborate within their network of stakeholders can spell business success or failure. What’s your collaboration framework?
I remember my first job. I was the dishwasher at a small, family-owned Italian restaurant. It was hard work, but the task was clear: when dirty pots arrive on your left, wash them and then put them on the right. After many years of school and experience, my daily work is miles away from that sink. I’ve moved from dealing with pots and pans to the boxes and lines of technical architectures. But, just as my work has become abstract, so has the process that I follow.
As a white-collar worker, I’m faced with a sea of unstructured information from a variety of sources. Using the corporate goals given to me by our CEO (another information source), I use analytical skills to categorize and pattern match, allowing me to efficiently handle the firehose. As an executive, my responsibility is to weave this into a landscape where I identify opportunities to exploit and risks to mitigate. As a corporate leader, I then dispatch tasks to employees with the expectation that they will make progress on these goals.
As the reader of this article, you’re probably saying to yourself, “it’s not that simple.” Indeed, as modern managers, we realize that the key to success is not simply giving employees tasks, but providing them with a comprehensive view of the business context, and then cultivating their ability to navigate the landscape of opportunity. Analytical skill and vision are not unique to the management class. The more they are exercised throughout the company, the better off the entire organization.
We recognize that our employees and coworkers are highly skilled and, by necessity, autonomous. Most of our work is abstract, and it’s impossible to define a step-by-step process that fully accounts for natural ambiguity. Instead, by crafting a process that includes both the context and the goals, everyone becomes empowered to make a local judgement call when faced with a new situation or new information.
The advantage created by this recognition has led to concepts like “information sharing” and “transparency” becoming part of modern management vocabulary. Looking across companies, we now see a vast array of tools designed to encourage information flows throughout organizations. Email, instant messaging, and internal web sites, for example, are all designed to keep everyone “in the loop.” Communication has even leapt over the corporate wall, with social sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook broadly extending the reach of our networks.
The down side of all this is that, as the volume of information increases, unstructured tools can create overwhelming amounts of data—the average worker receives a paralyzing 122 emails per day.
At upBOARD, we realized that the future of work must involve “collaboration frameworks” unique to each and every team and organization. By that, we don’t mean a single specific tool or process that a team uses to collaborate. Rather, we believe future success requires an operational framework that is developed and managed collaboratively by the full “network” of people involved in the work.
Collaboration frameworks encompass not just the workgroups or other formal groupings that make teams, but also any extended internal and external players. The framework outlines the network responsible for and who possess a shared stake in the goals, processes, and metrics, from the smallest group to an entire industry.
When viewed this way, the framework itself becomes the vehicle to categorize and add structure to information, and becomes the shared map used to navigate the future. By broadening the concept to include, not just the steps and status of tasks, but the operating environment, people can make local decisions while seeing and making clear linkages to others’ actions and broader community goals.
As the larger network refines its framework, the investment of time and effort in its shared story binds everyone into a community. Not only do people share a similar context and desired outcomes, they possess joint ownership and a common vocabulary. All of this works together to create strategic alignment: we know what we do, why we do it, and that we do it together.
upBOARD, as a tool, drives this type of interaction and teamwork. If you have a process that you’d like to build out, we encourage you to jump in and start experimenting. If, like most of our customers, you’re looking for higher level guidance on what would work for your team, including best practices and process templates, we can help with that as well. Feel free to contact us to have a conversation about how you can build your own collaboration framework.
As co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of upBOARD, Michael Rothrock is a seasoned technology executive and entrepreneur with vast experience spanning both large enterprises and successful start-ups. With two decades of experience in large scale collaboration, mobility, and mission critical systems, Michael formerly served as Chief Platform Officer at MaxPlay. VP of Product and Services at ionGrid, building the company and leading it to a successful sale to NetApp. Earlier in his career, Michael held a series of positions with increasing responsibility at Interwise (acquired by AT&T), Orative (acquired by Cisco), and Portal Software (IPO).