How to Master the Art of Collaboration

Aug 02, 2022
BusinessBusiness OperationsBusiness Process Management

Collaboration is far more than people just working together. To make it truly effective, businesses need a culture that directly fosters trust. TzeLin Kui, senior agile coach at the market intelligence firm GfK, explains the key steps to ensure all staff are working well and in the same strategic direction.

How to Master the Art of Collaboration
Credit: GfK

How important is trust to the art of collaboration? 

If collaboration is really going to deliver value, people must trust one another. To achieve this trust, businesses need a safe environment in which everyone feels comfortable being transparent and honest. All of us make mistakes. It’s important to see mistakes as part of a learning process. Businesses must end any blame culture that can exist between departments and among teams. This can be a particular problem within larger, more siloed companies. It’s healthier and more productive, ultimately, to encourage people to experiment, make normal errors and learn from those to do it better next time. 

When collaboration levels rise, does this create new challenges for businesses? 

With higher collaboration, it’s common for businesses to end up having too many meetings, which go on too long, and to have other forms of wastage. Ineffective meetings have multiplied in the wake of the pandemic: people are tending towards more set discussions, in the absence of the casual osmotic conversations in the office. What’s essential now is not just to augment collaboration, but to make it smarter. Meetings need to be targeted and deliver clear value. Businesses need shared strategic direction, while also embracing multiple perspectives. 

How should this work on a day-to-day basis? 

Businesses can start by better understanding the pitfalls they face. By doing so, they can see how to make collaboration work. A Lean Agile mindset is essential, continually eliminating wastage and raising efficiency. When setting meetings, businesses can ensure there will be value taken or given by every individual, setting a clear objective and sensible duration. They can nurture that culture of trust and transparency, accepting conflict and finding solutions. Across organizations, getting those priorities right drives coherence and strategic alignment. Everyone can be a change agent, but businesses also need dedicated roles, such as agile coaches, to cultivate this change methodically and embed continuous momentum. 

How has GfK changed its own collaboration, and what have been the results? 

At GfK, we embarked on a transformation to break down divisions between the commercial, operations, technology, marketing and other teams. We knew it would be a long-term commitment, with the aim of forming cross-functional teams. With these centers of excellence, we’ve driven a new culture. We have an emphasis on transparency and safety, creating a supportive, efficient environment and establishing a clear structure, direction, and governance approach. We’ve focused on taking small steps that can be completed quickly, and in a logical sequence, involving everyone, so we can correct course as needed.  

What excites you for the future in this area? 

I’m excited about how committed we are to continuously improving our GfK mindset and culture to supply the best environment for collaboration. We know this is a long journey. It takes time to build that trust, and we have about 8,000 employees globally, so it’s a major undertaking. But it’s a very positive one for our work environment. I’m also excited at seeing ever more coherence and alignment between different teams, not just within them. People are enjoying working together and feel comfortable and supported in being honest. Ultimately, this translates into us offering deeper value to customers. I’m proud to be a part of that journey. 

 GfK is recruiting! We have various tech roles open and welcome applications from collaboration-minded people, with or without a tech background. Find out more at