Organizational Collaboration – Learning from the rules of the road

Jeffery Philips has a brilliant post on this:

When you consider it, one person driving a car alone on a highway is a relatively complex undertaking by itself.  Adding other people driving other cars adds tremendous complexity, yet we seem to get by fairly well, with the vast majority of people getting where they want to go with little annoyance and few accidents.  Why?

OK…..what’s all this got to do with workplace productivity and teamwork?  Quite a bit. 

On a busy highway, the ONLY reason that a bunch of people who don’t know each other and can’t communicate with each other can drive safely and effectively is that they all abide by the same rules and etiquette, and have the strong expectation that everyone else will as well.  If thousands of people driving automobiles can achieve successful traffic flow with no communication between them based on some commonly held beliefs, certainly our workplace teams can operate more effectively.

Look at the advantages a workplace team has over drivers on a highway.  Team mates and co-workers know each other and can usually communicate very efficiently, through face to face interactions, the telephone and email.  The team should be working to relatively common objectives and are compensated to achieve a result.  In every way the workplace team has advantages over individual drivers on a highway.  Yet, in many instances teamwork breaks down.  I think that’s because the "rules" that everyone should abide by weren’t made clear or enforced, or there’s not a common goal that everyone on the team is following….

Is it not so true?  Setting common goals & rules and abiding by them amongst each other as a team is critical to success.  In my opinion, here are the rules:

Rule #1 : First, do you have clarity of  the objective or task at hand?, If no, restate, rewrite, repeat, reclarify, reiterate or ask again if you don’t understand.

Rule #2: Write down expecations or output. Read it, re-read it. See if it is clear. If not write it again.

Rule# 3: Get somebody to read it and check if they understand. If no, write it all over again.

Rule # 4: Don’t get defensive and diffident. Accepting that you don’t know and did not understand is not such a bad thing. Wasting time without clarity, is a criminal waste of everybody’s time.

Rule #5: Only then, assign the task or get the team to do it.  Before doing, ask them, what is the output expected. If they are not clear, explain it again.

Rule # 6: Review periodically. Review informally( formal reviews put unwanted pressure on people to get defensive)

Rule #7: Hyper- communicate and get to share work-in-progress  amongst teams everday. Don’t let somebody guess what you or other team members are doing.

Rule #8: Always give feedback instantly after a task is done. Don’t delay or forget.

Rule #9: Simplify constantly the tasks and see if  it is being done. Else, raise a flag!

Rule#10: Never engage in "I’m OK.. you are not OK" discussions. Collaborate. Sacrifice. Have a give and take attitude. That will work best.

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