Workplaces today suffer from information overload. While email, instant messaging, conferencing and other communications solutions have improved our ability to stay in touch with coworkers, these additions have severely limited our productivity.
Inefficiency is one thing. But when inefficiency creates a lack of collaboration, it can lead to lost productivity. That’s a big problem for you and your business. Loss of productivity can be difficult to measure, so frame it this way: If just one employee loses an hour or more a day due to inefficient workplace tools, you'll see a significant trickle-down effect across teams and the company as a whole.
Teams and departments must be aligned through collaborative processes. Otherwise, employees -- even those in the C-suite -- get out of sync, contradicting one another and duplicating efforts. The outcomes often are diminished results, longer time to market, decreased revenue and a higher probability of frustration and eventual employee turnover.
It's not possible to wake up one day and say to your management team, “Let’s run a tighter ship to increase productivity and recoup revenue,” and expect it all to fall into place. As a CEO, I empower teams to create a collaborative enterprise workplace. I've found a few best practices that lead to improved productivity and increased profitability.
1. Create a collective vision for collaboration.
Systems and cultural issues hold back true collaborative efforts at many enterprises. As your executives and managers feel empowered to step back and look at their systems, observation creates opportunity for change. This is the time to seek input. You need to ask clear and direct questions to get to the nucleus of any breakdown in productivity or revenue. As your teams brainstorm, they should ask questions such as:
- What are the goals of each process? Are they being met?
- What if we could do this process twice as fast?
- What might be possible if we could reclaim two, four or even 10 hours of productivity a week for every person on our payroll?
- How are our current processes making us lose money and affecting our quarterly results?
Your shared vision will set the stage so you can implement new processes that effectively engage everyone in a company-wide synergy.
2. Support collaborative transparency.
Transparency across teams is crucial to uncover all the ways a lack of collaboration affects productivity and revenue. Team transparency means there’s a clear, real-time way to see who's working on what, where they are in the process and how they're adhering to deadlines. Without transparency, the C-suite and managers might be micromanaging because they can't imagine another way to ensure projects stay on track. Or perhaps they know the process is affecting revenue, and they don’t see any other way to move the needle.
Work to incorporate solutions that help team activities become more apparent to others in the company. Projects are more likely to stay on track when people across the collective organization understand which projects are making progress within expected deadlines. You might even find you're meeting goals sooner because all teams are finally on the same page.
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3. Encourage accountability.
Everyone wins when you share in the principles of accountability. Define who is doing what, and when, so you can strive toward your company's larger objectives. Team members deserve to be acknowledged when they’ve successfully met their goals or deadlines. Self-led tracking methods enable them to log their tasks in ways that are visible to colleagues, managers and executives.
Giving employees a means to demonstrate value will foster accountability. And accountability ultimately leads to increased leadership opportunities within an organization. It helps reward those who do strive toward higher productivity and revenue while improving overall employee satisfaction and retention.
4. Overcome roadblocks.
You will encounter roadblocks in any good implementation process. It’s not uncommon for a CEO or other C-level executive to push back against a new way of doing things. They might not see the long-term benefit of abandoning current processes and embracing new, collaborative ones. Some executives just can’t shake the email habit. Others cling to a paper-based planner. Whatever the bottleneck, they keep everyone who reports to them locked in an old paradigm.
This is where leadership matters most. Document and report the positive results demonstrated by teams that adapt to include even one new process. Tie these outcomes to strategic priorities such as coming in under budget or delivering a project to a customer sooner than the agreed-upon deadline. Once the more reluctant among your ranks see these gains, the movement to embrace other new processes will be more seamless.
5. Monitor, monitor, monitor.
Adopting a new way of doing things is an iterative process. The first effort may have made significant improvement, but in reality, it might have taken you only 20 percent of the way toward your goal. Build in opportunities to reconfigure with your executive team. After you implement new practices and technology, review internal and external feedback. This is the time to examine what’s working and identify which of your teams are leading the pack. Then, get them to open up about the benefits they’re seeing from new processes and to share their revelations across the enterprise. It might require you to revisit Step One, brainstorm again and communicate additional observations.
Here's the most exciting part: Once your executives start having conversations about productivity, it will impact other teams. Employees will learn it’s not only possible but absolutely necessary to think critically about business workflows, processes, systems and technology. The CEO's role in these discussions is primarily to listen. It's crucial you make time to hear ideas because they can (and should) come from anywhere. An engineer might notice an opportunity to manage a technical process more efficiently, or a customer-support associate might spot a scalable new way to delight your customers. Be open to these suggestions so you can encourage and implement the changes together.
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Above all, make it clear that you will take seriously these kinds of observations. Show you'll implement feasible ideas and reward team members whose tactics prove demonstrably effective. Your ultimate goal as CEO and decision-maker is to both set an example and create a work environment that solidifies your company's culture of collaboration and productivity. That kind of culture starts at the top, but it’s sustained by engagement at every level of your organization.