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Collaboration Overload
Associations depend on collaboration to gain buy-in and create member value. But there is always a risk of collaboration overload, which is often a symptom of a deeper organizational problem. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, the evidence is mounting that for many organizations the costs associated with meetings, emails and other forms of workforce collaboration now exceed the benefits. Those organizations eager to combat such overload should focus on its root causes.

The article's author, a partner in Bain & Company’s San Francisco office finds that unhealthy collaboration typically stems from two underlying problems: organizational complexity and a “collaboration for collaboration’s sake” culture. He suggests ways to address the underlying causes. For example, consider simplifying your operating model. An organization's operating model typically encompasses its structure, governance, accountabilities and ways of working. Complexity increases with the number of new functions or nodes that are added to the organization. The number of nodes involved in decision making and execution explodes, resulting in more meetings and emails, and more hours devoted to collaboration. On the other hand, a more simple, “built-for-purpose operating model significantly reduces unproductive collaboration, liberating organizational time."

Also, avoid “collaboration for collaboration’s sake” by modifying the organization’s cultural norms where possible. Take meetings, for instance. In some organizations, meetings become a status symbol—that is, the more meetings a person attends, the more important he or she is assumed to be. Even worse, meetings can become a substitute for effective leadership communication, the author explains. What begins as a well-intentioned effort for inclusiveness turns into a downward spiral of more meetings and wasted time. In general, excess collaboration can sap energy and enthusiasm. That's why it’s imperative that the whole organization treat the root causes of collaboration overload and not just try and manage the symptoms.
Harvard Business Review (03/27/17) Mankins, Michael
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APRIL 2017 EDITION
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