A culture of collaboration
A few weeks back I spent some time with two members of a management team, discussing how to improve levels of collaboration between two departments. For context the challenge was trying to get people from a Creative team and a Recording studio team working more seamlessly together.
We talked about the nature of the day to day, project to project discussions between the departments. There appeared to be a common theme where ownership of the output was assumed to rest with the Creative team. The Studio team felt that when there were ribbons and medals given out for great client feedback it was given to the Creative team and rarely made its way back to the Studio (who, by the way, do a lot of work that contributes to the holistic experience and quality of the recording). Conversely the Creative team felt that the studio were sometimes slow to respond and react to requests for recordings and revisions.
So whilst there was an apparent necessity for a collaborative process, the culture between the two teams was more akin to an internal supplier/customer relationship.
And why not? Its often important before trying to fix a situation, to make sure its actually worth fixing. In many instances it can make commercial sense to operate using an internal customer model, managed by service level agreements. Collaboration can create inefficiency if it is not born from necessity.
We spent some time exploring where the activities of the two teams overlapped and found some areas where collaborative working styles (most notably around the design and delivery of demo’s) would be beneficial. This led us back to how to improve collaboration.
Initially all the usual ideas that most of us come up with surfaced. There should be more regular cross department lunches, meetings, team days etc etc.
But I noticed something about the language being used that struck me as interesting. The people in the creative team referred to initial recordings as ‘my demo’s’ and the Studio team referred to them as ‘their demo’s. In addition their was a tendency for the Creative team to ‘Tell’ the Studio what needed to be done.
Do you see the problem?
In a genuine collaborative environment the language would be ‘our demo’, or maybe ‘the clients demo’. The process of creating the demo would revolve around discussion as opposed to instruction.
Whilst company and departmental working cultures are supposedly established by the tone from the top, the culture really emerges from the detail of the moment to moment interactions between people. If you want to create a meaningful shift in the team culture in your business you need to start here.
Begin to notice and make a conscious effort to adjust, the use of language in your company, at the day to day level. Understand what the prevailing language is in different situations. Do people TELL others what to do (instruct), SELL what they want others to do (influence / persuasion) or DISCUSS and agree what needs to be done (collaboration)?
There is a time and a place for each of these styles but how and when these three styles are used. Making the necessary adjustments here will be both cheaper, and create a more meaningful impact, than a team lunch or a go-karting trip