Aug 112015
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Does Your Team Cooperate, Coordinate or Collaborate?

Teams that function effectively are an integral part of, and essential to, an organization’s success. When teams function well, they demonstrate productivity and positivity. Productivity helps the team accomplish tasks and reach objectives. Positivity focuses on interrelations between team members and the tone and spirit of the team. This takes cooperation, coordination and collaboration, with collaboration being the most important.

ESI International previously released a report showing that less than one-third of teams effectively drive project success. The report showed that sixty-five percent of workers believe that their organization’s project performance would improve if their teams worked more collaboratively.

Often the words cooperation, coordination and collaboration are used to describe effective teamwork. The problem is that most workers use these words interchangeably, which dilutes their meaning.

All three are important, and all three involve some type of teamwork. But they are not the same. Depending on what they intend to accomplish, they may rely more on cooperation and coordination than collaboration.

Cooperation occurs when individuals exchange relevant information and resources in support of each other’s goals rather than a shared goal. When cooperation occurs, something new may be achieved, but it typically comes from the individual, not a collective team effort.

Coordination occurs when resources and information are shared so each party can accomplish their part in support of a mutual objective. However, in coordination, nothing new is created.

Collaboration involves working together to create something new in support of a shared vision. The important phrase is “shared vision.” The most important process is to get people to work on the same goals. Collaboration is not an individual effort. Something new is created and the glue is the “shared vision.”

A team’s success or failure at collaborating is reflective of the philosophy of the top executives in the organization. If executives support social relationships and demonstrate collaborative behavior themselves, employees will experience interactions with leaders and colleagues as something valuable.

If there is good communication and an exchange of ideas, a sense of community among employees can be created. The behavior of leadership on a daily basis can be a significant factor on how cooperative teams are prepared to be.

Can we build collaboration in a team or organization? Yes we can. In an article for Forbes, Carol Kinsey Goman, an international speaker and body language coach, provides us with eight tips we can use to build collaboration in a team or organization:

  1. Realize that silos can kill your business. Silo mentality is a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company.
  2. Build your collaboration strategy around the “human element.” Collaboration is more than the technology that supports it, and even more than a business strategy aimed at optimizing an organization’s experience and expertise. Collaboration is, first and foremost, a change in attitude and behavior of people throughout an organization.
  3. Use collaboration as an organizational change strategy. Regardless of how creative, smart and savvy a leader may be, he or she can’t transform an organization, department or team without the brain power and commitment of others.
  4. Make visioning a team sport.Today’s most successful leaders guide their organizations not through command and control, but through a shared purpose and vision.
  5. Utilize diversity in problem solving.Team members who think alike or are trained in similar disciplines run the risk of becoming insular in their ideas. Diversity causes people to consider perspectives and possibilities that would otherwise be ignored.
  6. Help people develop relationships.Give your team time to get to know one another, to discover each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The outcome of any collaborative effort is dependent upon well-developed personal relationships among participants.
  7. Focus on building trust. Trust is the belief or confidence that one party has in the reliability, integrity and honesty of another party. It is the expectation that the faith one places in someone else will be honored. It is the glue that holds together any group.
  8. Watch your body language. To show that you are receptive to other people’s ideas, uncross your arms and legs. Place your feet flat on the floor and use open palm gestures (which is a body language display inviting others into the conversation).

While a communal spirit can develop spontaneously, Human Resources can play a critical role in cultivating it by sponsoring group events and activities that encourage collaborative actions.

Strengthening your organization’s collaboration capacity is a long term investment. It means building relationships and trust and developing a culture in which senior leaders are role models.

Why not develop an inclusive environment that energizes teams, values creativity and makes the work environment productive and engaging? Our Team Coaching Program can provide a baseline for your team and a map to move forward. In the end, it is the team that decides the course direction for the journey ahead. Call us to see how we can help.

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