Bridging the COVID Collaboration Silos
Congratulations! We’ve all done well over COVID lockdown – getting work done, learning new technology, and adapting to constant change. It is a testament to the human spirit to see how teams and companies have been resilient and creative in the face of huge change that happened, literally, overnight.
Communication not conversations
The most obvious change has been how we collaborate at work. We still meet, but now virtually. We still do our work but not in an office. We communicate with our colleagues but much more with instant messages (IM) or by email. We collaborate but more often through shared documents than conversation. We see our colleagues but only their head and shoulders in 2-D.
Some things haven’t been able to be adapted to a virtual mode. There is no more warmth of a smile as we pass someone in a hallway, the quick social chat as you walk between meeting rooms, or the inspiration of listening to a charismatic leader speak to a full room. At the start of the pandemic virtual coffees popped in our agendas like mushrooms during a misty night. However, like mushrooms they disappeared as the pandemic wore on. Deeper conversations got replaced with short efficient IMs and emails and lost from video meetings. In the end, it left many people feeling socially isolated, distant from their colleagues and less connected to company.
Honey I shrunk my network!
Slowly people’s networks shrunk, especially the more distant or “weak” connections. It is these weak ties that are important in connecting across different groups in an organisation or bridging silos. It could be someone in IT connecting with person in Finance, or a person in one region connecting with someone in another region. These network interactions are most likely to be a sourceof new ideas, a different perspective or new information. It is the natural wandering of a live conversations that exchange ideas and spark innovation.
By contrast, over the pandemic the strong ties have got stronger as people connected more with their close colleagues, even sharing more about their personal life than ever before. While this is valuable, our close network often has access to the similar information and see the world through the same lens. This has reinforced the silos, making them stronger and creating even bigger chasms between different parts of the organisation.
Rebuilding collaboration bridges
There’s no going back to the way we were. While a few companies are trying to order everyone back to the office, the majority are looking at ways to bring together the best of both remote and office work together in a hybrid model. And this will present even more challenges with creating inclusive meetings that bring together the unique perspectives of everyone “in the room,” even if they are at the end of the video conference line.
Rebuilding networks and building new relationship needs to be a priority to bridge the deepened silos. This means intentionally bringing together people from across the organisation to collaborate, together. These gatherings should have a very clear purpose, bringing the right people together, be well organised and produce a clear output. At the same time, they should allow time and space, more time than ever before, for people to connect and have real conversations.
It takes a lot more work than putting a few names into a calendar invite and continuing with the same old meeting cycle. It is respecting people’s face-to-face time by using it wisely in a well-planned and facilitated workshop or meeting. This allows people to rebuild the network and connections that are so essential for innovation. Creating spaces where people can have real conversations creates the social connections needed for people to reach out across silos.
The time is now to replace thosebanal, unplanned meetings, and meaningless networking events with new forms of meeting. It will take time, energy and resources but the reward will be people who are productive, innovative and feel connected to the organisation.