Building for Collaboration

Today I’m delighted to welcome Shirley Marshall to the Wild Fig blog.  Shirley’s an HR Partner at RCI and came to the last Learn > Connect > Do event in December.  I was delighted when I heard that Shirley took her learning back to work and wrote an internal blog post to get others thinking and talking about the topic of workplace and collaboration, and she’s kindly given permission for it to be re-produced on here.

This is what the “Do” of these events is all about!  Having met Shirley and experienced her commitment to making work better, I’m confident that this will be the start of some changes for her and her colleagues.  For now, it’s over to Shirley with her reflections and questions that may just get you and your colleagues thinking and talking too.

I recently attended a think tank session at the Beefeater Pub in Leicester and given the topic was “do we still need offices” it was pretty relevant not to have the session in the office environment! As I walked in, the atmosphere felt friendly and warm, not like the traditional “seminar” type environments which we are often greeted by when attending such events. It immediately got the creative thoughts flowing in my mind!

To kick things off, a guest speaker (Dan Pilling) took to the stage to demonstrate the facilitation technique which was Pecha Kucha; a presentation style designed to facilitate dynamic conversations and consists of 20 images over 20 slides, with each slide having a 20 second window therefore making the presentation just 6 minutes 40 seconds. Dan is in Facility Management starting his career in the functional world of, how do we make the most of this space? However, as the world has moved on, so has his role in terms of managing stakeholder expectations and needs to ensure the office is not only functional but meets the needs of the business in terms of organisation goals, culture, engagement and brand.

Pecha Kucha was engaging and I focused on the content of Dan’s presentation rather than what was going on within the slide. It gave me inspiration for future toolkit sessions or open days that offer short, engaging “bite-size” insights rather than long presentations.

Dan’s presentation was thought provoking, and sparked many questions in my mind, but on review, they culminated into one overall trail of thought: what stops collaboration across different office environments, be that across floors in the same building, or across different locations?

Is it culture? The facilities? The IT? The behaviours/habits of the people? The communication channels? A lack of empowerment? Is it a combination of all of these factors and if so, how do these things integrate? We often look at these topics in silo but perhaps we need to bring it all together to make sure the objectives are aligned and conducive to teamwork and collaboration. In order to do that, we require alignment cross function and physical location, ensuring that everyone has access to the same resources and opportunities regardless of physical location or the team they sit within.

After the presentation, we split off into groups to brainstorm some ideas and resolutions to the current challenges we were facing….. We discussed the “us” and “them” mentality, with one member of the group – Garry – explaining that within his organisation they had Finance & IT on the 5th floor and Sales on the 8th floor and although part of the same organisation they were two distinct functions, with no sense of commonality, even to the point that the Senior Leaders within each floor had not had regular meetings until 2 months ago. This got me thinking about our recent office moves, and those that may be upcoming. I have heard people talking about how a particular team have moved “to the other side”. Perhaps it is a natural inclination to box ourselves and others as it enables us to simplify our complicated lives, & gives us a sense of belonging. But how can we move away from that when it prevents a culture of collaboration?

I started thinking about how many pockets of collaboration are occurring across our region, different teams do this in different ways…. But how do we communicate these tools that are currently being used in isolation? Team collaboration is fantastic but if we are all working to the same common goal and purpose – to send people on the vacation of their dreams – then let’s bring all of this together! I felt like we have all the right tools and stepping stones, but there is an obstacle – perhaps an unrealised one that prevents inclusion/sharing of these tools and insights.

A possible obstacle to this is the natural desire to pigeon hole ourselves into areas of expertise – but who should be involved and who makes the final decision? How often do we take a step back when it is something we are an “expert” in, and ask for other’s opinions or feedback/input? People that are collaborating across the business at the moment, could really benefit from including other people in their discussions but how do we foster an environment that makes it ok to reach out and include others. In fact, how do we ensure that people across the business know who is the most appropriate person or team to involve?

Is it also true to say there is an out of sight, out of mind mentality? How many people in the Midlands office understand what the Spain or London offices do? Predominantly it is only those working directly with those teams that would have an awareness of that.

Further to this, we often hear people talking about how busy they are – is this real or is it for perception? What if people have loads of time to share ideas and participate in collaborative thinking sessions, or just catching up with other functions and organisations – does that give the impression they don’t have enough to do?

Giving ourselves time to think and improve and collaborate should be part of our day to day and accepted within the culture, not perceived as time wasting. Some managers might be better at encouraging their teams to take the time on such things than others. How do we make this ok?

Before you leave this blog, take some time to ponder these questions….

Who could you better collaborate with?

What stops you from collaborating?

Do you give yourself time to think and reflect?

If not, what stops you doing that?

What would be the benefit of making time to think?

 

And finally….

What commitment will you make to do things differently in 2017?

 

[Image credit : http://blogs.informatica.com/2014/05/01/pim-is-a-silo-breaker/#fbid=SBF1IUS70NT]

2 thoughts on “Building for Collaboration

  1. What a fabulous blog post by Shirley – love it (thanks Helen for sharing). It brilliantly captures the discussion we were having, but then adds to and enriches it with some superb thoughts and questions.

    The question about “how often do we take a step back when it is something we are an expert in, and ask for others opinions/feedback/ input” really struck a chord with me. I think we’re all probably guilty of thinking there isn’t enough time/resources/opportunity to ask for and really listen to that other perspective – particularly when deadlines are tight or we worry it will take us off on a tangent or open up new questions/concerns/possibilities that we don’t have time for.

    The key I think is not to see collaboration as an action point or a to do – the add on at the beginning, middle or end of a task/project that might help us to complete it, but to see it ‘as’ the task. It’s not the satnav that helps us find our way to the destination, but the car that makes it possible to make the journey at all.

    Thanks so much for sharing Shirley, and hope to see you at another Learn-Connect-Do.
    Kirsten

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