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The Importance of Style

|Aug 8|magazine12 min read

This story originally appeared here in the August issue of Business Review Australia magazine.

Written by Cameron Ackbury, Senior Director, APAC and Japan at Mindjet 

Cameron Ackbury brings over 15 years of domestic and international experience in software technology to Mindjet.  As Mindjet’s Senior Director, APAC and Japan, he is responsible for driving new license revenue and market growth throughout the region.  

While most companies realise that ‘collaboration’ drives business productivity, many stumble at building a truly collaborative environment in the workplace. The rising number of social networks, Gen Y employees and geographically dispersed offices are forcing organisations to re-examine their collaborative approaches beyond the tools they select.

While collaboration approaches will vary across organisations there is a single, key ingredient that is required:  building a culture that embraces collaboration.  

It’s no longer just a higher salary that will motivate employees; ‘soft’ values such as flexible working hours or the ability to occasionally work from home bring hard returns to the business. Of course, the need to better understand what ‘soft’ actions will motivate employees is nothing new to businesses. But what is new is the explosive number of social platforms that are reawakening the need to provide ‘soft’ benefits to employees.

It’s also up to middle managers to empower employees to be honest about what works best in their environment and ensure these suggestions map back to the overarching corporate plan. One way to do this is to identify and encourage ‘influencers’ in the team who are passionate about fostering a collaborative environment. While corporate executives typically develop strategic goals for the organisation which may take the form of top line revenue goals or cost savings initiatives, it is up to all levels of the organisation to collaborate and find the best way to meet these goals. Implementing genuine collaboration starts from the ground up so it’s important that early on you have conversations about how this will work.

ABB, a major engineering firm and Mindjet customers, is building a successful collaborative environment.  Reliability Manager, Barry Kleine is responsible for reviewing and streamlining processes across the company’s sites in the Asia Pacific region.  His challenges are in helping teams across all levels of a business identify bottlenecks and solve common issues that they face. Through using  the mindmap, or in ABB’s case the ‘loss map’, as a catalyst for team discussion and collaboration Barry significantly reduces the time and stress involved with identifying and minimising faults across his sites and teams.

To help him foster a collaborative environment, Mr Kleine uses Mindjet’s mindmapping capabilities which enables him to bring together all of the human factors in a project into a single map, including managing timing, budget, productivity and the like.  He also finds it is useful in managing the team’s expectations and needs – this often requires the most thought and planning but achieves the greatest results in boosting productivity levels and staff engagement− whether he’s dealing with the engineers preparing the plans or the team that implements them. Barry does not just help improve projects from a technical standpoint but aims to reduce each team’s daily frustrations by including them in the process that identifies and resolves issues.  

Tools of the trade

While the right culture is the foundation of collaborative workplaces, the next step is ensuring that employees can easily adopt the tools used to help drive collaboration. When it comes to collaboration tools, the choices are endless and while some employees may prefer the traditional post-it note and e-mails, others may opt for conference calls and a white board.  Others still may choose cloud –based solutions or more complex tools like Microsoft Sharepoint.

It’s important that when businesses select collaborative tools, these technologies can be easily integrated into the current business workflows. For example, if there are a lot of staff members out in the field needing to communicate updates in real time, mobile collaborative tools will ensure ongoing communication anytime, anywhere.  If the staff is working on data intensive projects, then a desktop solution will be more robust and appropriate for their needs. Assessing what functionality is needed to get the job done in the most efficient way possible and offering the capability to use the most effective tools to complete these tasks will mean your staff is willing to collaborate at every turn.

Admittedly, enabling effective collaboration is more complicated than most organisations think – while it takes time and energy to get it right, it’s a worthy investment that will serve to meet long term goals for the organisation.  Your staff will be more productive and energised when they realise the benefits. And, that’s well worth the effort.