POV: Collaborative Distractions

Collaborative OverloadPoint-of-View: Collaborative Overload

Harvard Business Review (HBR) January/February 2016


  • Time used in collaborative activities (meetings, email, etc.) has grown by 50% or more. At many companies, it’s 80% of the day, leaving little time for individuals to complete their own work.
  • There are three types of “collaborative resources”. Informational (can be recorded and passed on), Social (awareness and access within a network), and Personal (one’s own time and energy).
  • Informational and social resources are infinite and can be shared without depleting a collaborator’s supply. Personal resources are finite putting collaborating at odds with completing one’s own work.
  • In most cases, 20% to 35% of the value-added collaboratives come from only 3% to 5% of employees quickly “burning out” those who have the mind-set and desire to help others.
  • Structural changes can usually be made to shift decision rights to more-appropriate people in the network to reduce the demands on all types of collaborative resources.
  • Those seeking help (collaboration) must change their behaviors from asking for other’s personal resources first (time, email, meeting requests) to seeking out
    information/social resources first.
  • It’s essential to give people permission to say “no” AND to encourage them to make introductions to others when a request doesn’t draw on their own specific capabilities/contributions.
  • Efficient sharing of informational, social, and personal resources should be the prerequisite for positive reviews, promotions and pay raises.
  • Leaders must learn to recognize, promote, and efficiently distribute collaborative work, or their teams and top talent will bear the costs of too much demand for too little supply.

Our Point of View:

  • “Being Collaborative” is a convenient, poorly defined, and overly used phrase filling our heads and the organizations within which we work!
  • Collaborative intentions and technologies have exacerbated the mis-use (abuse) of time spent “sharing” (F2F, Virtual) creating at best “collaborative distractions” from getting real work done.
  • The unintended consequences of these intentions is the major cause for “less than expected” business productivity/results, professional morale/retention, and personal well-being.
  • Effective collaboration requires intentional decision-making standards (Foundational), structure (Decision Rights), and discipline (Perf. Mgmt.).
  • Applying structure (Decision Rights) and discipline (Perf. Mgmt.) without decision-making standards is the equivalent of reporting financial results without accounting standards (FASB).
  • Lacking access to decision-making standards, individuals are reduced to make intuitive (inconsistent) decisions on how best to collaborate (informational, social, and personal).
  • Standards exist to reduce variation and eliminate the waste of time, people (talent), resources, and capital. Yet, for most, they are taken for granted.
  • Forward-thinking leaders that know the “power of standards” are investing in decision-making standards as an organizational foundational competence to eradicate the mis-use (abuse) of “collaborative intentions” in their organizations.

pdfCollaborative Overload

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *