In the current market, companies can’t afford to miss any opportunity to create efficiencies by collaborating effectively across different teams, departments, or regions. Pressure to perform in a crisis environment naturally leads to a “heads down” and sometimes competitive internal working environment. More than ever before, management needs to get employees to pause, look up, and identify every possible way each of them can work together to generate savings or revenue. To survive and prosper in a tough market, you need to know how to make efficient and productive collaboration happen, and where to get help if you don’t.
Making Collaboration Happen
One of the most efficient ways to mobilize a workforce into quickly generating savings and value-producing results involves structured value-creation sessions. While many companies are accustomed to annual offsites that convene employees for the purposes of strategic planning, the current economic state suggests companies should encourage more frequent facilitated interaction among employees across disciplines and silos. The goal of such sessions is to shift mindsets from heads down even competitive thinking to heads up collaborative brainstorming on revenue generating collaboration, followed by commitments to take responsibility for concrete actions going forward. Here are five factors that are essential to optimize value-creation sessions.
1. Put the right people in the room: Cross-fertilize by including participants from a wide range of departments or locations. Mid and senior level employees will know the industry and the organization well enough to brainstorm efficiently. Including at least some decision-makers in the design of the session, or in the session itself, ensures a higher likelihood of later buy-in and implementation. Junior personnel bring a fresh creative perspective that can be attained through subsequent consultation after the initial session when active participants go back to their teams and replicate the exercise.
2. Assign specific targets: Challenge the group to identify a specific dollar amount in savings or revenue generation by a specific date. For example, task them with identifying $5 million in actual savings or revenue by December 31.
3. Provide an efficient process: Participants need clear goals, a structured process, and adequate time and space to achieve useful results.
4. Require detailed action plans: The product must be highly specific action plans with commitments by specific individuals to take exact steps according to a detailed timeline.
5. Ensure accountability: Value creation sessions are only as good as the value they actually produce. A clear system for holding people accountable to implementing the ideas they generate is required, including a timeline for review, revision, and retrying.
You Can’t Do It Alone – Use an Expert
We’ve all been involved in brainstorming sessions that are a complete waste of time. The key is extremely strong design and facilitation. Use a professional facilitator or consultant who specializes in maximizing the efficiency and efficacy of meetings. Many organizations make the error of assuming an internal person can provide these services and save them the money of an external consultant. In actuality, the real cost is always the opportunity cost of having people out of the field and away from their desks. An expert can greatly reduce if not eliminate the risk that the time will be wasted and can free up all participants to contribute to the substantive conversation.
Four Factors to Consider
A world-class facilitator is a must-have component of a strategic value creation session to ensure systemic thinking and problem solving. There are four factors to consider when choosing a Communication Consultant.
1. External Expertise: As introduced above, the Collaboration Consultant needs to be an external person to avoid ‘Group Think’ and to allow everyone who is relevant to participate. We seldom see a sports team or individual athlete who doesn’t have a coach. Business executives and teams deserve the same kind of support.
2. Top Tier Credentials: The Collaboration Consultant must have credibility with his or her audience. A Collaboration Consultant’s academic credentials, professional background and personality should all impress the audience so that they are eager to listen and participate. Additionally, to ensure an open and productive dialogue, their personality should resonate with the group and corporate culture.
3. A Proven Track Record: An impressive resume is necessary, but not sufficient. A Collaboration Consultant must have experience getting results and superior skills producing real world value. They should be able to offer you references and contacts that can vouch for their excellence as well as concrete success stories.
4. Versatility: A Collaboration Consultant may begin with executives at a strategy meeting, but should be willing and able to return for group training and workshops, as well as personal coaching. Smart organizations institute a culture where learning is constantly encouraged. Only a versatile Communication Consultant can integrate training into daily performance and maintain it as a development resource.
The drive for immediate and short-term profits played a major role in driving the economy into its current state of crisis. The talking heads continue to reprimand us on the evening news that we should have thought more long term. Hiring the right Collaboration Consultant can help your organization perform at an optimal level that your panicked competition will think is out of reach in this economy.