Can We Collaborate Too Much?

crowd-of-people-1Dictatorship and authoritarianism is old school. The new age approach to managing people requires that we involve people in collaboration, decision-making, and give them a sense of ownership. But can we take this too far? Is there such a thing as too much collaboration?

The simple answer is yes. While I completely agree that by involving people in the business of decision making is a wise way to manage people effectively and boost productivity, the reality is that there needs to be a limit to this or we risk mediocrity and decreased efficiency. Here are three ways to tell if you're collaborating too much:

You're no longer innovating, you're compromising

Collaboration is great. Most obviously because n heads are better than one head, where n equals the number of people collaborating. Clearly we get more input and most likely better solutions. That's how diversity works, right? Not always.

When teams collaborate too much, there comes a critical moment where discussion and problem-solving becomes less about finding new and great solutions, and more about making sure people feel included. This is no longer collaboration - it's compromise and it can water down the great solutions that you came up with two meetings ago.

You feel like you don't control anything anymore

You just want to make a decision, but you've got to run it by the staff first. This can be in relation to something trivial, and in this case it just piles up your to-do list and stops you from getting things done.

Another type of decision that you shouldn't be collaborating on is the time-critical, high impact situation. Allocating time to collaborate on these things can mean missed opportunities or escalating problems.

You feel like you're delaying decisions all the time

If you feel like you've asked the staff too many times for their input into a project or decision, then you probably have. When working on anything that involves multiple iterations, it's easy to step over the line and keep re-iterating for the sake of making sure you 'run it by' people. The problem is you can do this forever.


What you can do:

Applying the concept of Tight/Loose management to your style is an easy way to build the foundations of 'just enough' collaboration. Analyse the situation before you start and ask these questions:

What things are Tight? That is, what things are actually non-negotiable about this decision or project? There might be things that have been handed down from head office, or things that you, as a manager, simply need people to do

The second question is: what is Loose? What are the things that you can let the team control?

The majority of staff are pretty reasonable people. They understand that they can't control everything and if we give them the benefit of input enough times, then the other times, where they can't have input, seem fair and balanced. But if we show them that they should have input ALL the time, then, ironically, they'll think this it's unfair if they're ever excluded.

Just remember that it's the perception and feeling of control that is most important for your team. Apart from that, just make sure you keep them in the loop, don't spring any nasty surprises on them, and explain how and why decisions were made.

Your team will still love you.
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