The Power to Act: Collaboration Part Three of a Four Part Series

Last week we discussed how infusing your culture and processes with accountability at every step can transform an organization. This week, we dive into collaboration and the impact it can have on a team.


“Collaboration” -it has become somewhat of a buzzword when we talk about organizational processes and company culture. It’s to the point where the Harvard Business Review is writing about Collaboration Overload. “Two heads are better than one”, is the theory and we’re all about it. We write about it, we talk about it, we have the benefits down pact…but do we really understand what it means or looks like? Do we understand how to implement it in a way that makes an impact? We have to pose these questions because right now, it really doesn’t seem like it. It looks more like what we like to call “email hell”.

Can you define how your team collaborates and identify the tools that make this collaboration possible? Most leaders we speak to say, “email”. By the way, a Volano team member dies a little inside every time a leader identifies their collaboration tool as email, and a lot of us have kids.

Don’t get us wrong, email is 100% necessary and it’s a powerful communication tool, but that does not make it an effective collaboration tool. In fact, email can be one of the biggest hindrances to collaboration there is. In many ways, email is an albatross. Long email threads, vague directives, poor search ability…and it’s getting worse. 140 character conversations, emojis and why does that person keep putting a “J” at the end of everything?!

When you have time, we suggest you read, “The 4 Emails Everyone Loathes and What They Do to Productivity.”

Email isn’t collaboration. It is for one-to-one communication. Email is a note to your grandma. And is there any context in email?  Typically, not. Gallup says that 70% of US employees don’t feel engaged in great part due to communication barriers. But it can be better. Real collaboration is changing the world of work.

When collaboration is done right, it is about sharing with context, including the whole group, not just one-to-one. Collaboration is when everyone is working around the same table, but in a virtual sense. It is sharing, it is feedback, it is mobile. It is not email.

Not too long ago we had the privilege of working with a wireless retailer via our field visit app, Action Card. In short, Action Card’s mobile and web-based solution eliminates time-consuming paper reviews adding efficiencies to field visits. When it came to collaboration between their field team and just about anyone else in the organization, the struggle was real.

The field visit team was communicating with their operations officer to report on quality for 20 different locations via email, then the operations officer was also using to email to manage the whole follow up process. It’s hard to wrap your head around just how painful this process was. Group emails would be crafted with instructions, then there would be a wait time for various teams and individuals to respond, confirm reconciliation of action items, or simply ask questions. Think about how that would work -reconciling who’s responded and who hasn’t, following up, following up on the follow up, and so on.

As you can image, there were so many pain points in this process, very little was accomplished without several rounds of email threads and likely more time inbox searching than performing actual job reqs. It wasn’t working, especially not on this scale. To compound the issue, corporate was demanding that independent wireless dealerships expand, or get bought.  Obviously their ability to successfully scale further was an issue.

That’s where the Action Card app came in. We brought in our collaboration software and they are now able to communicate richly up and down and across the organization. No more time consuming email threads, no more follow up on the follow up, no more lag time. Now, action items collected from the field visit are brought to light in real time with automated work queues that make it impossible for issues to fall between the cracks. Reviews become actionable, bringing location staff into the process. This establishes a more transparent, accountable review process and better results through education. When an action item is flagged, it doesn’t get lost in email chains or loose leaf papers. Following through on Action Items is made easy and following up is even easier. Collaboration is a beautiful thing.

Stay tuned next week when we wrap up the Power to ACT series with Transparency.

In case you missed it, last week we published an article defining the Power to ACT and what it means to us here at Volano. Click here to check it out. This week we’re diving into “Accountability” and what it looks like as a holistic part of a culture and workflow.


Lack of accountability in an organization can be fatal in business. Without a culture of accountability, leaders get weighed down and forced into micromanaging. If they’re stuck looking over shoulders and picking up slack, how is anything supposed to actually get done? Lack of accountability holds an organization in maintenance mode and makes growth nearly impossible.

The idea of a culture of accountability is rather vague though, right? People doing what they’re supposed to do. If you’re a leader, you want to know how to take action. How is accountability infused into a culture and what systems are used to foster and maintain a culture of accountability? So, we like to show people what accountability looks like in action, through the work of one of our favorite clients, Planet Water.

A number of years ago Volano was lucky enough to be introduced to Mark Steele. Mark is our kind of guy, he’s entrepreneuric, he has a grand vision, and he’s interested in the greater good.  Mark runs a foundation called Planet Water and their mission is making sustainable clean water in developing areas around the world readily available.

The Planet Water organization builds sustainable clean water towers around the world. They have their system down. They can install a tower in as little as one day on-site. Impressive right? But the trick is to ensure that all the components are staged and ready when the volunteer team shows up in a remote Indian village. Organizing, managing, and orchestrating these efforts around the world was causing Mark to lose sleep. One missed step means the mission is off track in a big way. The impact of roadblocks in an effort like this are felt deeper, and carry more weight than your average workflow snag.

Volano worked with Mark to find a solid, dependable solution. We collaborated with him to create a workflow that made the organization, management, and orchestration seamless.  Accountability became part of the system. All tasks, team members, and their status became visible. Mark now has peace of mind knowing that all the “nuts-and-bolts” have been handled.  That ‘mental weight’ has been lifted and now Mark can invest his full energy into the Planet Water mission…not ‘nuts-and-bolts’.

When organizations embrace a culture of accountability and use the tools necessary to enforce it, the aggravation of micromanaging expectations is gone, teams move forward seamlessly, expectations are clear, efficiency increases and things get done -towers get built. Please also tune into the Volano blog next week when we dive into Collaboration.

Part 1 -What is the Power to ACT?

CEO’s often are frustrated by how slowly their business seems to move.  They feel mired down, trudging through the day-to-day actions, never really feeling like they’re gaining momentum or propelling the organization in a tangible way. You get too involved in the business to actually run it! That might only make sense to those of us who have been there.

When you go into business, you do so because you have a passion for your products, services or customers, not really because you know a lot about taxes, leadership and employee engagement. So, you try to find the balance between your drive to be effective and the necessity to be the leader you read about in every other Fast Co article. Should you be more invested in your bottom line, or your company culture? Is there a balance?

The Power to ACT is a philosophy that we have adopted here at Volano. We find that making accountability, collaboration and transparency pillars of our organization helps us organically strike that balance between propelling business (getting things done) and building a healthy company culture, focused on engagement.

Accountability, Collaboration, Transparency


There is an intensely gratifying peace that comes with knowing expectations are being met, but it’s very hard for most leaders to let go and empower. That’s pretty natural actually; this is your organization, your success on the line. Without instilling a culture of accountability, we see bottlenecks to progress and roadblocks in communication. You can put your effort towards to controlling everything, or you can put your efforts toward building and empowering a capable workforce.


Every business leader, trained or not, knows that collaboration is a building block of success. That’s why every quarter or so you’ll implement a new project management app…the last one just didn’t have what you needed, right? Well neither will this one, or the next if collaboration isn’t part of your culture, and fostered by leaders. Get out of the inbox and the fourth project management app and engage in real information sharing.


When accountability and collaboration are an intrinsic part of any company culture, something fantastic happens, and it’s called transparency. Walls come down, big picture goals come front and center, clarity and context are part of every moving piece of the organization.
The Power to ACT has been very impactful in our organization. We now understand how thoughtful, purposeful leadership can drive success, while fostering a healthy, effective work environment. Please head back to the Volano blog every Thursday in April for the rest of the series as we cover each pillar of the Power to ACT.