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

April 28, 2016

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.