Top 6 tips for collaboration

October 20, 2021

A project can only succeed when a team functions efficiently throughout its lifespan. It takes a group of diverse people to design, build and execute the project. But, you may be wondering: How does one get these different teams to effectively execute an idea? Well, in the words of my old boss "We must collaborate to be successful!"

Collaboration isn't easy, especially in a world where your team consists of remote employees. Project leaders are tasked with the all-important mission of managing communication in the digital workplace. Whether it's using project management tools like Bild and Asana or inspiring employees to believe that teamwork makes the dream work, it all comes down to the process you develop before starting the project.

Now, project management can happen in many ways, but here are my top 6 tips for collaboration:

Develop a clear process and goal

Teams and individuals alike have sworn by Kanban boards to visually and effectively manage their projects!

This is an obvious one. Without a clear structure and goal identified, you are leaving your team in a state of confusion.

  • Have a goal in mind that everyone can agree upon. A clear direction is an effective team collaboration strategy.
  • Set up recurring meetings to track progress and ensure that the team is on the right track.
  • Standardize your project with team-wide naming conventions for all documents, files, and any other materials you may create.

Be transparent

Consistent updates between team members, ranging from presentational meetings to quick messages on communication tools, are key to keeping everybody on the same page.

Communication is a huge aspect of any cross-functional collaboration. Setting up clear lines of communication within a team is crucial in encouraging efficiency. This is especially important for a remote team.

  • Weekly meetings will help reduce unnecessary tangents and misdirections.
  • Slack or any other communication tools will help with communication and general updates and notifications.
  • Documentation can help track different versions and provide a history of changes.

Finally, be honest and transparent throughout the process and don’t rely on assumptions. Let your teammates know exactly what you need and when you need it.

Avoid the “us vs. them” trap

During the development process, it can be easy to hyperfocus on your own project and forget about all of the other moving pieces. It’s important to zoom out and remember the overall goal: to create something great!

One of the biggest challenges with collaborating is the “us vs. them” trap. Believing that your process is better than another team’s process causes internal strife. It's important to have an open mind and be an active listener. For example, engineers may blame designers for supplying mockups that aren’t functional. In turn, designers may blame engineers for ignoring their designs. But thinking of each other as opponents only breed distrust. At the end of the day, you are all working to achieve the same goal. So it’s best to keep an open mind and work together as a team!

Collaborate visually

While “The Office” is a fine display of comedy, it’s definitely not a shining example of best practices in the workplace! Instead of crowding around one desk, the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company should use a tool that allows everyone to visualize and interact with the material!

There is a famous saying that “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This is 100% true! It’s estimated up to 65% of the general population are visual thinkers. Creating project visuals and whiteboarding your workflow process will play a critical part in your team's understanding of the project. It will also foster critical thinking, inspiration, and ideation! Having tools like Figma or Bild will help you build out a visual storyboard that everyone can understand!

Centralize feedback and move away from email

With many email chains seeming to never end, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with information flying everywhere! That’s why teams have turned to centralized communication platforms to give feedback and collaborate!

How many times have we sent emails with 50 different attachments to explain why things may or may not work? It’s an important part of any collaboration effort to provide feedback, which streamlines the project’s editing process and approvals. However, using emails is super inefficient. Having tools that can manage all of your files will help provide a better work environment while allowing you to track your progress along the way. You are also able to see the history of changes, create a culture of transparency and eliminate double handling with a tool like that!

Use shared tools

There really can be too much of a good thing! Many systems are great to use but often don’t support external collaboration. Having to juggle between them is a problem that can easily be remedied—just adopt a shared tool everyone can use!

When collaborating with external teams, it's important to understand the tools and material they may be using. From concerns about access to worries about security, shared tools can address many pain points present with cross-collaboration. Here are a few tools you can use:

Bonus tip..

Community driven collaboration

An underrated way to collaborate is using a community-driven approach. If you ever need help solving a problem, turning to the broader community can potentially reveal many solutions. Forums and community channels, like Reddit and Twitter, are there to help like-minded people communicate and collaborate. These channels are useful for both building new relationships and furthering projects. This collaborative process is sometimes referred to as “human-centered design,” which is exactly what it sounds like: Putting people at the center of the work process! This involves solving key problems by developing, testing, and implementing new approaches that will work best for them.