Collaborative culture has become a buzzword—one that you may even want to roll your eyes at—but it’s a topic of conversation for a reason: It works.

Fierce, Inc. administered a study that showed an overwhelming majority of employees blame a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.

Surprised? Maybe not, but it’s important to understand what causes this ongoing issue and implement solutions to help prevent breakdowns and recover from the inevitable shortfalls.

Learn Different Landscapes

Companies large and small often operate in silos. To cultivate interdepartmental communication, we must first learn what each person actually does.

You may pass co-workers in the hallway or congregate in the kitchen, but do you know what they do all day, every day? Begin to ask questions, display interest and really pay attention. Although all team members are working toward the same goal, the way each department thinks and functions to get there is very different, which creates a natural friction.

This is where empathy comes in. Big abides by our very own Operator’s Manual, we detail certain values that we embrace, including empathy, selflessness, and curiosity.

Take a minute to put yourself in another’s position. Consider what they are up against and how they see a certain situation. Half the battle is considering and respecting different views.

Include At Onset

A lot of frustration comes when individuals feel simply uninformed. Having the entire team present during the initial client/project immersion is vital, whether their services are needed immediately or down the road.

Initial communication will provide a sense of inclusivity, contextual information, and a familiarity with team members for the specific activation. This ensures that everyone begins on the same page and also cuts down on repetitive offline conversations. The ultimate goal is efficiency.

Meet With Purpose

Meetings get a bad rep for being unproductive and unnecessary, but the good news is we have the ability to change that. Provide context, bring a prioritized agenda, and make the goal known on the front end.

Once the meeting is wrapped, recap and delegate to avoid causing confusion and halting production. Make sure everyone has action items and knows proper next steps with timelines attached to each.

We all know no one wants to add more meetings to their calendars, but consider having more frequent meetings that are less time consuming and more effective. Try different meeting styles, like “walk and talks” or chatting while grabbing your morning coffee, then poll your team to find out individual preferences.

We live by the messaging tool Slack – you can communicate instantly with the entire agency, create private channels for each client team and direct message for one-on-one questions and conversations. You don’t have to wait for an official sit-down, conference room meeting.

Acknowledge Any Confusion

If there is confusion (and there will be), address it right then. This sounds simple, but many times people are hesitant to speak up when they can’t follow a conversation or email thread and will continue reeling trying to piece all of the information together on their own.

Problems and confusions exist during collaboration, and 9 times out of 10 someone else on your team needs clarity on the same topic. Strive to diminish the negativity of confusion by creating an open dialogue where each misunderstanding is seen as an opportunity to learn and form solutions together.

Develop A Process

At the core of a collaborative culture there must be a communication process. Although creativity is encouraged and necessary, there must also be a sense of consistency to maintain expectations.

Develop a structure to productively disseminate information. What does this look like for your team? This may mean identifying a point person who will funnel all information, taking notes at every meeting and sending a recap and/or regular check-ins. By outlining a clear communication process for yourself and your team, everyone is equipped with accurate, up-to-date information.

At Big, there’s a saying: “We actually talk to each other.”

This is an encouraging reminder to pick up the phone or walk down the hallway and have real conversations. Offices everywhere are now filled with open workspaces to encourage face-to-face interaction, and the current digital age offers us the ability to communicate at our fingertips, literally.

Everyone has the tools and the knowledge for collaborative success. It’s time to embrace them.

Want to Talk?

Rebekah Weinberger

Business Development Specialist