Every Company Desperately Needs a Chief Collaboration Officer

By David Silverman

“Too many meetings and too many emails” are the cries of today’s knowledge workers, and both are artifacts of well-intended collaboration spun out of control. Your most precious company resource – your employees’ time – is too often squandered in unnecessary or unproductive collaborative pursuits. Is any of this ringing a bell?

• Meetings with no clear purpose or agenda
• Endless email chains with half your department copied
• Repetitive or duplicative status update meetings
• More meeting attendees than the content mandates

If these symptoms sound familiar, you are not alone. Rampant time wasted in the name of collaboration is an epidemic in corporate America. Most companies don’t have a Chief Collaboration Officer, but desperately need one. A quick LinkedIn search for people with this title yields a mere 1,150 results. It’s been 8 years since Professor Morten Hansen and Scott Tapp pitched the idea that organizations need a Chief Collaboration Officer and very few companies have heeded this advice, but let me make my case. To keep the collaborative demands of your company in check, your CCO (or someone acting as such) should take the following two steps:

1 – Inspect the way you spend your time as diligently as you inspect the way you spend your money.

Payroll is nearly every organization’s single biggest expense, so it’s critical to understand how you are investing your human resources. You didn’t hire all of these great people to attend meetings all day. Are your people focused on your business’s current top priorities, or are they getting bogged down with time-consuming, low priority issues and meetings? Most executives have no way of answering this very important question.

The phrase “time-tracking” is loaded. It sets off alarm bells and makes some people suspicious that the outputs are being used by bean counters for nefarious purposes. But in an organization with a high degree of trust and sense of common purpose, an audit of how you spend your time forces a healthy conversation about where the business is investing its time and whether or not it is prioritizing appropriately.(1) It gives your company the ability to consistently measure whether it is truly focused on its top priorities, and if it is not, adapt accordingly.

2 – Give your company’s collaboration a structured cadence.

No one sends an email or schedules a meeting with the intent of wasting others’ time, but often, that is the result. Providing structure to collaboration significantly reduces the number of ad-hoc meetings, emails, and other collaborative demands on your employees. This allows them to better plan and execute their work. At CrossLead, we refer to this defined cadence of standing meetings as the “Operating Rhythm.” The appropriate Operating Rhythm will vary from one company to the next, but generally it is a mix of short daily stand-ups, weekly forums to discuss key learnings and decisions from the week, and quarterly plan reviews. Additional standing meetings may be helpful to manage continuous collaborative demands between specific teams. Once implemented, your Operating Rhythm will become your company’s heartbeat.

A defined Operating Rhythm drastically reduces additional collaborative demands placed on employees because it eliminates the need for duplicative status update meetings and lengthy email chains. It centralizes this communication to one place and one time. But really, it fosters intentional communication – each of these meetings should have a published purpose and agenda, so those who attend know what to expect (and those who skip know what they’re missing). While the content will vary with each instance of the meeting, the structure doesn’t have to.

Regardless of whether the effort is driven by your Chief Collaboration Officer, your COO, your CEO, or someone else, the actions above are critical if you want to put a stop to the collaborative overload that is crippling your company. The outcome is a more disciplined organization that is committed to investing its energy towards the most important business priorities and has the structure in place to do so effectively. CrossLead enables organizations to achieve and sustain optimal performance by helping them focus their resources on what matters most. For today’s businesses, that means taking a thoughtful approach to managing collaboration. Reach out to sales@crosslead.com to learn more.

 

(1) To be clear, I could care less about whether someone worked 8.5 or 11 hours one day, but I care a lot about how that time is spent. Auditing your time will help your team make the most of its working hours, not add more of them.