By Alastair Mitchell, entrepreneur.com, 08-06-2014
With the countdown to the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 12 under way, 32 soccer teams from across the globe are prepariing to descend on 12 cities across Brazil to play the games of their lives.
Not only must the teams’ 12 members work together effectively to be successful. But there’s a hell of a lot of teamwork that goes into ensuring that the matches run smoothly for those playing, spectating on-site and watching from home.
Everything from the goal-line technology to the broadcasting is state-of-the-art, with three matches being shot and broadcast in ultra HD resolution for the first time. This will delivers four times the picture resolution of 1080 pixel full HD.
Asahi Glass Co.'s glass roof for player benches is made from chemically strengthened glass originally developed to protect small electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets.
The innovation and dedication involved in producing such an event is phenomenal and the teamwork on the field as well as behind the scenes got me thinking about what it takes to collaborate effectively.
The key to collaboration is that it’s a team sport. Essentially this means a group of individuals working together to achieve a common goal, regardless of where they are located and whom they work for.
In today’s digital economy, the people whom an entrepreneur might work with every day can extend far beyond those at adjacent desks or even in the same building. A business owner must work seaminglessly with contractors, partners, customers and suppliers, even if they are based in different regions, using multiple devices or working in different time zones.
With the World Cup, the probability is slim for having every stakeholder involved with the glass roof for benches in one room on a regular basis to discuss milestones, project progress and deliverables.
Working with teams for own company, Huddle, across three different time zones and in four different offices, I know well the challenges faced when trying to collaborate effectively. I have pulled together some of my top tips here:
1. Head toward the same goal. When a workforce is based in numerous locations, it’s all too easy for employees to work in silos. Communications barriers can start to form, with everyone focused on personal objectives and not thinking about how to fit into wider business goals. For collaboration across boundaries, everyone needs to fully understand what the team as a whole is working toward.
Regularly flying an entire team across the globe to meet face-to-face isn’t practical, cost effective or environmentally friendly, but regular meetings can easily be held via video link. A clear plan with deadlines that outlines who is responsible for activities what may seem like Project Management 101. But all relevant stakeholders need to be involved in sharing of information from the outset.
2. Share and engage with team members often. Feedback should be encouraged at every stage and two-way dialogue set up among team members. By communicating effectively, team members may avoid having to navigate unexpected pivots or changing direction at the last minute.
3. Provide people with the right tools to do their jobs. A manager wouldn’t send a soccer team onto the pitch without the correct kit. Similarly, geographically dispersed teams need the right technology to ensure success.
Waiting for emails to hit an in-box or playing telephone tag with colleagues is neither productive nor fun.
The likes of Dropbox and other tools can serve as virtual-filing cabinets for people to access content from anywhere. But how is this content then shared with groups and worked on by a team? Email attachments present a similar issue as corporate information can quickly become fragmented. Before long, no one on the team knows which version of a document is the most recent, who has approved which files and which feedback has been incorporated into what documents.
It's possible to roll out technology such as instant-messaging tools and cloud collaboration services (such as my company, Huddle, provides) to bring together teams in an online environment.
It’s certainly not rocket science, but collaboration is a team sport and everyone has to know the goal to head for.