Collaboration the key to high performing teams

If you ask a business leader what they want from their teams, often you will hear one word – collaboration.

Collaboration in the workplace has many benefits which have been written about all over the Internet so we won’t delve into them here. Instead, we shall move forward with an assumption – collaboration is good for business.

So then how do you create a collaborative environment in our interconnected workplaces?

Harvard Business Review back in 2007 gave us “Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams” saying:

  1. Investing in signature relationship practices
  2. Modelling collaborative behaviour
  3. Creating a “gift culture.”
  4. Ensuring the requisite sills
  5. Supporting a sense of community
  6. Assigning leaders who are both task and relationship oriented
  7. Building on heritage relationships
  8. Understanding role clarity and task ambiguity

I’m sorry to Lynda Gratton Professor of Management Practice at the London Business School who wrote the article, but all this is a little to “high brow” for most of us to implement on a day to day basis.

I’d want to take a more straightforward view to improve team collaboration – Kanban. A key value of Kanban.

There are many aspects of a successfully implemented Kanban process that help teams collaborate and continuously improve on what they are doing.

First up is the fact that work is Transparency means the team can see whatever one is working on. The work is explored daily in the daily stand up when the team walk through the Kanban board.

However, the critical aspect of driving collaboration when you are using Kanban is the focus on improving collaboratively and evolving through experiments – a core practice of Kanban.

A fantastic example is the WIP Limits that limit how much work in progress at any point in time. The WIP Limits on a specific column act as a forcing function to promote team members to work together to unblock the process. Work can only flow into a column if the WIP Limit is not breached. Too often the WIP Limit is reached because there are blockers further down the process – may be in Testing or QA. The entire team needs to work together to resolve the issues, not just the Testers or QA Team.

Kanban is the opposite of standard transformation projects as you “start with what you do now” and build from here, with the concept that there is no endpoint. There is constant evolution and collaboration. Your processes, policies, boards, cards all continue to evolve as you learn and experience different types of work. Through this process, the team needs to be amplifying useful changes and simultaneously dampening ineffective changes.

The team collaborates daily, not just when there are set “Innovation Activities” in the business. Also a “fully operating” Kanban process has a cadence for improvement with several review processes to ensure that the process is fulfilling the ultimate goal of improving the flow of value to customers.

Ideally, when working through obstacles, blockers and challenges, the team works autonomously in a self-directed way only guided by a team leader. When I have been helping teams with Kanban boards, my job as “manager” ends up being full-time craft extraordinaire – so glad for all that time I spent in Kindergarten cutting out!

By enhancing employee autonomy organisations are creating meaningful work for their employees which leads to improved employee engagement. Kanban allows intrinsic motivators to roam free within the team. So not only does your customer get a high-quality product with increased value the organisation receives a more engaged workforce.

Do you have any tips on how to improve collaboration in your organisation?

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