Teamwork and Collaboration in the Workplace
How would you describe collaboration in the workplace? According to indeed.com, the definition of collaboration in the workplace is “working together with one or more people to complete a project or task or develop ideas or processes.” In a workplace setting, the people who are collaborating must communicate clearly and share knowledge effectively.
Teamwork is just one of the skills required for collaboration and necessary to accomplish tasks as a group. It also includes several soft skills that can be developed over time and with experience.
“What We’re Doing” versus “How We’re Going to Do It”
Collaboration is an essential part of teamwork and helps a successful team function most effectively. If the team can’t get on the same page about what it is doing (i.e., the “what” it wants to accomplish), it isn’t going to be able to work out the details of what each team member’s role will be in reaching the team’s goal (i.e., “how” it is going to get there).
Examples of Teamwork in the Workplace
Teamwork is a strategy that has worked exceedingly well to help organizations of all types and sizes reach a common goal. The following examples of real-life problem-solving show what can be done by a team that collaborates and works well together.
NASA Apollo 11 Mission to the Moon 1969
The Moon landing in July 1969 was a “giant leap for mankind,” in the immortal words of astronaut Neil Armstrong. The entire world was fascinated by the journey of Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins as they traveled to the moon, landed on its surface and then returned safely to Earth.
Many hours of work and several years of research led up to that moment when the crew splashed down in the ocean. There were multiple teams of people at the top of their respective fields who worked to ensure the best outcome possible. NASA stated there were approximately 400,000 people who worked on the moon landing project. Many of them had never worked on aerospace applications before. However, they were able to apply their knowledge to this new field and work closely with the astronauts.
Starbucks Store Expansion Early 1990s
Starbucks is a well-known coffee brand that is familiar to most consumers. You don’t have to travel very far in any major urban area to find one of their stores. Over the years, the Starbucks product line has expanded to include breakfast, lunch, and snack items as well as a variety of hot and cold beverages.
The company opened its first store in Seattle in 1971. By 1990, it had expanded to a chain of 84 stores, according to the company timeline. At that time, the company announced its new mission statement: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
Starbucks also introduced a stock-options plan for employees (including part-time workers) at around the same time. However, the company still had some issues around customer service and a lack of communication between employees working in different roles.
In 1995, Howard Behar came on board as the company President. He took steps to change the work environment to make it more responsive to employees’ needs. As a result, overall customer service improved. Mr. Behar took the position that the company was selling an experience, as opposed to just coffee, and encouraged team members to successfully collaborate around that mission.
Why do Companies set Collaboration Goals in the Workplace?
This working style helps employees feel engaged in what they are doing by building relationships between people and encouraging them to grow in their professional life. Tasks that would be far too big and challenging for one person to take on can be divided between several people and successfully completed by a team.
Which Skills are Essential for Successful Workplace Collaboration?
Working as part of a group is not something that comes naturally to everyone. It takes time and effort to develop the skills necessary to be able to put collaborative working practices into place. Keep in mind that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. But by working as a team, the group can capitalize on its strengths and find ways around the areas its members find more challenging.
Some of the soft skills required when teams collaborate include active listening, empathy, problem-solving, and accountability.
→ Read More: 8 Types of Collaboration to Use in your Digital Workplace
Is On-Site Collaboration More Effective than Virtual Collaboration?
When Marissa Mayer took over as Yahoo’s CEO in September 2013, she made a decision that was controversial to the company employees as well as many observers: No one would be allowed to work from home. Her take on the matter was that “people are more collaborative and innovative when they’re together face to face.”
Graduate student Akshata Narain conducted a study as part of a Capstone Research project that looked at whether face-to-face teams are more creative than virtual ones. In the online survey, she looked at virtual collaboration in the workplace to discover the impact it had on creativity. The study, which looked at results from 299 participants, found that teams working on-site had an advantage over those who were collaborating virtually when they were being evaluated for creativity.
However, virtual collaborators had an unexpected benefit: The lack of face-to-face contact reduced inhibitions among younger or less experienced team members. They felt they could express themselves more freely to the group.