Collaborate, Don’t Compromise

Xgility helps companies achieve transformational results in their business.   Our consultants use technologies like SharePoint, Office 365, and other cloud technologies as enablers for those transformational results.  We deliver those technologies with skilled consultants using industry leading best practices.  Unfortunately, those transformational results are not equal across all of our customers.

Since the technology and the methodology are the same across most of our customer base, our leadership team spends a lot of time evaluating the variables that may change from company to company.  By identifying the variables, we believe we can help more customers achieve transformational results.

One of the biggest variables in achieving transformational results is based on whether or not the company we are working with has a culture of collaboration.  If the company does not have a culture of collaboration, a consultant or information technology team is not likely change the culture based on a tool, process or a technology.

A culture of collaboration needs to come from the top leadership of the organization.  It has been said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  The goal of this eBook is to help the leadership of our customers generate ideas of how to build a culture of collaboration.  Below are six ideas your company can implement in order to build a culture of collaboration.

  1. Have a Common Purpose or Goal

A team is defined as a group working together to achieve a common goal.  Without a shared purpose all you have is a collection of individuals.  It is the role of a leader to define goals and inspire excellence.

A true leader possesses the ability to have people galvanize around a mission to perform at a level much greater than they would have done individually.  Common goals should be written down and referred to on a regular basis.  In most cases, strategic objectives should not change for at least one quarter.

An intranet, like SharePoint, is a good place to develop strategic goals, communicate company objectives, and measure progress.  Goals should be reinforced on a regular basis to include: quarterly all hands meetings (record them for absent employees), project sites, emails, pictures, videos, and any other medium possible.  Once employees understand company objectives, managers should reinforce those objective and help employees with envisioning how their job contributes to the overall company mission and goals.

  1. Clarify Roles

Once your organization has identified and communicated your objectives, the next step is to assign a team and a leader to own that goal.  The entire organization should work together to accomplish strategic goals, however, I recommend that a single leader owns the accountability for each goal.  Too many strategic planning meetings end without the clarity of who owns the long list of goals that were discussed and agreed upon during the management meeting.  Technology like OneNote and project sites that are an intranet, can make it clear who is accountable for which strategic objective.

  1. Focus time on relationship building and tasks, not searching for information

You might be wondering why this suggestion is in the middle of my five recommendations.  Based on the many organizations we have visited, we have found that employees, especially ones that have been there six months or less, spend a large portion of their time asking their co-workers basic questions like how to order business cards, when do I get paid, or what days are the company holidays.  Consider some of the facts cited in the KMWorld article below.

Studies by IDC, as well as organizations such as the Working Council of CIOsAIIM, the Ford Motor Company and Reuters have found that:

  • Knowledge workers spend from 15% to 35% of their time searching for information
  • 40% of corporate users reported that they cannot find the information they need to do their jobs on their intranets
  • Workers spend more time recreating existing information than they do turning out information that does not already exist

From: <>

In order to build a culture of collaboration, employees need to know the what, who, and how to get their job done.  Collaboration tools should contain up-to-date information on all the above, as well as, provide social capabilities like employee directories, news feeds, discussion sites, and events that help them connect with their co-workers to build relationships and trust.

  1. “People Don’t Care Until They Know You Care”

The thoughts below are a paraphrase of what I remember from talking to Tom Mendoza, former President at NetApp.  His key to leadership was understanding that people don’t care what you know. Rather, they want to know that you care. Only then they will follow, not because you have a title that forces them to follow, but because they do not want to let you down.

Caring and relationship building can be best done face to face, but collaboration technologies can help extend the amount of human interaction necessary to show your team that you care.  An intranet can be an excellent platform for employee recognition.  Media such as video or pictures can help motivate the team by telling your story and stimulating positive emotions.  Phone calls are more personal than email and video chats are personal than phone conversations.

  1. Understand and Practice Candor

In 2012, trust in business leaders was at an all-time low, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer.  In 2013, they reported that only 18% of people trusted business leaders to tell the truth and fewer than half of employees trusted businesses to do the right thing.  A 2013 Gallop poll found that only 13% of employed are engaged at worked.  Trust is the key to engagement and authenticity is crucial to leaders building trust inside their organizations.

Authenticity is the foremost attribute of a leader.  In order to be authentic, leaders must be vulnerable and transparent.  Leaders must be willing to admit that they don’t have all of the answers and need to ask for help.  Leaders must live what they say. Leadership takes courage.  In order to create a culture of collaboration, leaders must make their team feel safe.  If people feel safe, they will be willing to take risks.  Organizations need employees that are willing to tell each other the truth.  Trust is knowing that if something goes wrong or when you tell the difficult truth, that person will be there for you.  When leadership builds a culture of trust, people share openly and honestly. This leads to companies that are more productive.

“Power comes not from knowledge kept, but knowledge shared” (Bill Gates).  Your team should be encouraged and rewarded for taking risks, setting large goals, and putting their ideas out in the open.  As a great example, every Google employee posts their OKRs (goals) every quarter on the intranet.  Google employees also post questions to “DORY,” an online tool, and employees vote on which ones should be answered by the executives in all hands.  Building a culture of trust has been key to the success of Google.

 Below are a few statistics highlighted in Stephen Covey’s book The SPEED of Trust.

  • A 2002 study by Watson Wyatt showed that total return to shareholders in high-trust organizations is almost three times higher than the return in low-trust organizations.
  • According to a 2005 study by Russell Investment Group, Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” (in which trust constitutes 60% of the criteria) earned over four times the returns of the broader market over the previous seven years. As Fortune declared, “Employees treasure the freedom to do their job as they think best, and great employers trust them.”
  • With regard to trust, Gallup’s research shows that 96% of engaged employees, but only 46% of disengaged employees, trust management. As the age-old question goes, “Which came first—the chicken (distrust) or the egg (disengagement)?” It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that gradually grinds the organization to a crippled pace, or even to a halt.
  • The Towers Perrin Report stated that the #1 driver of engagement is senior management’s interest in their employees’ well-being (Intent, Demonstrate Respect). Managers’ behavior also has significant impact on employee engagement, with “acting with honesty and integrity” being the #2 driver of engagement.
  • The Hewitt Study that came out this year indicated a direct correlation between high employee engagement and their list of the top 50 employers. Best-in-class employers showed employee engagement at 78% compared to the norm of 57%.
  1. Encourage employees to build 3 LifeLines

Research from Christine M. Riordan, provost and professor of management at the University of Kentucky, and articles in Harvard business review have shown that strong social connections at the office can boost productivity and could make employees more passionate about their work and less likely to quit their jobs.  Attitude is one of the more important attributes that separate people in the workplace.  If this is true, what can your organization do to encourage connection and build a collaborative workplace?

There is plenty of research about the value of mentors in the workplace.  Many people struggle to find good mentors in the workplace.  The idea of LifeLines came from the book Who’s Got Your Back. A lifeline is like a mentor but could be a peer that provides accountability and encouragement in the areas of both personal and professional goals.  In the book, Keith Ferrazzi gives practical advice how to seek out a lifeline and the best practices for creating value from those relationships.

Collaboration technology can be used for identifying co-workers with common interests, challenges, and goals.  While initial relationships should be built face to face, collaboration technologies can provide additional opportunities to check in and provide a way for distributed employees to connect.  Our team uses Microsoft OneNote to take meeting notes, record personal goals, and to keep screen clippings of articles we find on the web or in books.  A OneNote notebook stored in SharePoint can be used to share notes with a team.

Most great intranets include an employee directory.  The employee directory should be more than an organizational chart and list of phone numbers.  It should be a tool to build and enhance relationships.

We hope you have been inspired with new ideas on how to build a culture of collaboration.  If you would like to learn more about how to achieve transformational results thought the use of collaboration technologies such as SharePoint or Office 365.


Author: Kurt Greening

Editor: Alex Finkel