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What’s Your (Mutual) Goal?

Posted on 03 Sep, 2014 by  in Collaboration & productivity | Leave a comment

Collaboration is defined as “a working practice whereby individuals work together to a common purpose to achieve business benefit.” This may include, for example, working with a provider to improve your organization’s enterprise portal. The skills you put into practice often have wide applications but they can be difficult to learn, especially if you start with a faulty premise.

The Importance of Agreement

In the Harvard Business Review, Keith Ferrazzi cited a study which found that “uncertainty encouraged everyone to collaborate and think more creatively about different ways in which to fulfill the group’s mission.” An implicit key embedded within this observation is the shared group’s mission, or agreement regarding a collaborative goal. Too often people assume they’re working towards the same end, but end up working at cross-purposes. This happens when the group lacks agreement about their mission and may involve what’s commonly called “a clash of egos.”

In Forbes, Jacob Morgan acknowledged the importance of employees’ motivations regarding a project’s personal impact. Personal impact can provide ample motivation that improves your chances for success because the stakes are important to you. Unfortunately, success may be hampered when group members haven’t reached agreement on what success looks like. If personal goals are paramount, then the project itself has been sublimated to be a mere objective of those personal goals.

The Importance of the Goal

When two or more parties are required to collaborate in order to achieve an organizational goal, the first step is to agree on what that goal means to the group as a whole. Ferrazzi said, “People have to set aside their egos, trust one another and share their expertise willingly.” By doing so, the project becomes the priority and personal aspirations become individual objectives that complement the group’s goal. The implication is that personal goals have a place in the collaborative process because they motivate us to excel. However, the collaborative goal should supersede these personal goals whenever necessary.

Too often the goal is merely implied: the bid included an acknowledgement of the organizational goal, the assignment included a specification of the project goal and the project plan (if predetermined) included the end goal. The assumption is that everyone should know and work towards this goal. However, personal agendas, miscommunications and differing interpretations could interfere with the successful attainment of the goal if mutual agreement is not reached by the project participants.

The Importance of Communication

Collaboration is a complex process. People learn the art of collaboration from different sources and through different experiences. Some group members’ collaboration skills may not be as advanced as others. The successful collaboration is planned, implemented and troubleshot before it is completed. Project success is a direct result of successful communication, which is why so many companies want collaboration tools that facilitate communication. It all starts, however, with something very simple, agreeing on a goal.

Ferrazzi reported that many companies, including PricewaterhouseCoopers and myGreenlight, find it necessary and advantageous to train employees in the successful use of collaboration skills, including “communication skills, emotional intelligence, teamwork and networking,” as well as “various relationship skills and behaviors that enhance team collaboration.” According to Morgan, listening is equally essential and that includes executives listening to their employees about the nature of a project.

Communication is the essential ingredient that makes success possible. You cannot assume you have mutual agreement because your understanding of the project may not align with your collaborators’. Someone may be misinformed. Someone may be using different assumptions. You may all end up working at cross-purposes if agreement is not reached. At Huddle, we can provide the tools you need to collaborate securely and we can provide a living example of the art of collaboration, but it’s up to you to communicate agreement on what success looks like for your specific goal.


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