Recognizing the Benefits of Team Efforts and Collaboration
written by: Bruce Tyson
• edited by: Ronda Bowen
• updated: 5/20/2011
Team collaboration is an elusive ideal that carries with it lofty dreams of doing more with less. Those pursuing the ideal often fail to understand the benefits and challenges that are at play. Without addressing the challenges, few benefits will ever be realized.
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Working Together for Common Goals
People have historically recognized that by working together they can accomplish more. This recognition is behind virtually all human civilizations, but often stops at the corporate level where oftentimes people scurry about pursuing their own objectives with only incidental concern for the corporate mission. Team collaboration seeks to bring the principles of teamwork under the organizational umbrella so that people can get achieve more through collaborative efforts. With each team member making unique contributions toward a common goal, they share together in the outcome. Here are just a few of the benefits team collaboration brings to the table.
By working together, people can create results that are greater than what can be achieved working independently. When the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, everyone wins. Among other things, team synergies can be manifested in reduced costs, increased capabilities, and more flexibility to adapt to changing requirements.
When discussing the benefits and challenges of team collaboration, innovation should be near the top of the list of benefits. Team collaboration offers multiple perspectives for innovation and problem solving. By leveraging these perspectives to validate ideas and propose solutions, problem solving is taken to the highest level. A person working alone cannot hope to recognize flaws in a procedure or causes of a problem, but team collaboration can often create more feasible solutions.
Stability and Education
Collaboration serves as a mechanism to transfer new knowledge effectively. Also, people working in groups will learn more and retain what they learn longer as team collaboration has proven in many environments. As teams work together, they share knowledge, offering each team member the opportunity to learn and grow. Because team members have intimate knowledge of the project as well as an increasing familiarity with each member’s role in it, the team becomes more stable. Unlike businesses that rely on individuals in a chain process, collaborating teams are insulated from the effects of the absence of a team member, meaning that the project can continue to move toward completion even when members are sick or on vacation.
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Challenges of Team Collaboration
The benefits and challenges of team collaboration are numerous, but the benefits are what most people want. Underestimated challenges are often to blame for the failure of a team, rather than the team members. The benefits of collaboration are not a free lunch. Resources to keep teams functional such as time and money need to be allocated and organizational structure must be adapted to provide an environment that is conducive to teamwork. The challenges must be acknowledged and accepted if team collaboration is to become viable within any organization. Some of the many challenges facing team collaboration are listed below.
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In a collaborative environment, team members should value and respect the experience and perspectives of the other members. Establishing trust is easier said than done in most cases. The competitive and individualistic framework that defines many organizational environments leaves many people feeling vulnerable when asked to freely expose their expertise and insights. Although challenging, establishing trust is not impossible, though it sometimes requires chemical changes to organizational culture and a significant amount of time.
Team collaboration depends on many interlinked channels of information exchange in order to be effective. A thorough knowledge of key elements of a project on the part of each team member is necessary for the team to produce quality work. Communication is often challenging, especially when teams involve people from diverse backgrounds, but if proper channels are established and maintainted,
Often, after a team meeting disbands, members revert back to their own worlds until the next meeting. With many competing roles to manage at the individual level, the momentum of the team suffers. Organizations that expect to profit from team collaboration need to find ways to make sure team members have the necessary time available to keep the team's mission moving forward.
Staff turnover also affects momentum because the team has to repeatedly spend time bringing new members up to speed. Management needs to either address retention issues or provide sufficient redundancy to preserve the team's momentum. Other factors that affect momentum are mission drift and the failure of the group to create and maintain a shared vision.
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Benefits and Challenges Summarized
By combining the skills, perspectives, and experiences of individuals, they can accomplish much more than they could if they worked by themselves, making team collaboration an attractive option for many businesses. Sometimes organizations, however, want to realize performance benefits without recognizing that some hard work is required to create the atmosphere where team collaboration can thrive. These often fail when teams are slapped together without any concern for creating a suitable foundation for teamwork. For those organizations and individuals that are willing to make commitments to a better approach to work, careful consideration of the benefits and challenges of team collaboration will pay off with tremendous rewards.