How to spot defective collaboration

The theme running through recent blogs has been effective collaboration. So having looked at various aspects of the subject I thought it’d be interesting to look at the polar opposite – defective collaboration. So here are ten warning signs that that your team isn’t collaborating the way it should…

Greenlight Blog - No communication

What communication?

It’s stating the obvious, but collaboration is only possible where there is adequate communication. If there is no communication then collaboration simply cannot exist.

Of course effective collaboration doesn’t need just any communication, it needs focused, timely communication between all parties. The effectiveness of collaboration is directly proportional to the quality of its supporting communication.

We’re all aiming for the same thing, right?

A classic sign of defective collaboration is that activity is not aligned to clear objectives.  Collaboration only adds value if it moves the organisation closer to its objectives, otherwise there’s a danger that activity could be confused with progress.

As a management team, team leader or project team you need to ensure that you have clearly defined what your goal is and built a plan to get you to that goal. That way you can ensure anything you are doing is part of the plan and working towards that ultimate aim.

You’re responsible for the marketing stuff aren’t you?

This is a point I'm sure resonates with a lot of people. It is absolutely vital that roles and responsibilities are pre-defined so that team members know who’s doing what. If this isn’t done then the confusion can lead to tasks getting missed or a duplication of effort. As with clear objective setting, you have to ensure that your roles and responsibilities are set out prior to the start of the project. Playing catch-up later will result in significant wasted effort.

“Oh Jimmy did that, I had nothing to do with it”

Ever heard something similar to this from one of your colleagues? If you’re working in an environment that encourages a blame culture, chances are there’s not much effective collaboration going on. When communication is used to pass the buck and cover an individual’s own position rather than to constructively achieve the primary objective in the most effective manner there is usually trouble looming.  Political maneuvering can cause disruption and discord amongst the team.

Greenlight Blog - Shouting

Can’t get a word in

Certain team members are dominant and don’t allow other collaborators' voice to be heard.  The best value is obtained from a team when all individuals are playing to their strengths and everyone is adding their opinion.  There is a risk that valuable contributions can be missed if quieter members of the team are not heard.

Leaving a meeting with no actions

If you’re having a lot of meetings where a lot of talking happens but you’re leaving it with no clear idea of where to focus your energy then you’re wasting your time. You need to be making sure that the focus of the meeting is around the tasks that need to be done, their progress and who is doing them. That way, people leave the meeting and know what they’re doing, when they’re doing it and who they are doing it with.

There are no records of decisions made

Every project starts with a team, but people come and go throughout the duration of the project. In order to understand how the project has come to its current position a new team member needs to understand what’s been achieved so far, what decisions were made and what the rationale was for those decisions. Without adequate governance and records it becomes difficult to bring new people into a team and subsequent collaboration is harmed as a result.

You spend more time learning how to use a tool than actually using it

Effective collaboration should be quick and simple and collaboration tools must similarly display those two attributes. If people spend more time trying to work out how to use the collaboration tools rather putting those tools to use solving business problems then the tool is more of a hindrance than a help.

All dialogue is face-to-face

We all know and understand the importance of face-to-face conversations. But recently there has been an intense focus on the benefits of in-person interaction, which has eroded the use of other forms of communication. Effective collaboration involves choosing the most appropriate form of communication for each interaction based on who you are communicating with – where they are located, comms channels available to them, how many of them there are – and the message itself - its importance, its urgency, its length. Funnelling all or most communication through a single channel is unlikely to be effective.

Out of date information

For team members to collaborate effectively they all need to have access to the same level of information, it needs to be up to date and it needs to be timely.

If information is not made available to the team in a timely fashion or if different team members see different versions of the information significant time can be wasted, incorrect conclusions drawn and bad decisions made. Information should be available to the while team simultaneously and in real time.

Photo Courtesy of Everett Historical /

Photo Courtesy of Everett Historical /

Agree/disagree? Have I captured your top warning signs for defective collaboration? Please let me know your thoughts.

Phil Ruelle | Greenlight Blog | Jersey, Guernsey, Channel Islands

About the Author

Phil joined Greenlight as COO in 2014 and has really made an impact. An expert in technology and software architecture, Phil has benefited both Greenlight and our clients with his attention to detail.

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