Adjust for size. Teams have been getting larger and larger, some even exceeding 100 people for complex projects, according to one study. This trend has made true collaboration increasingly difficult to achieve. One solution is to use a flexible, fluid team structure that consists of three tiers: a core, an operational level, and an outer network. The core consists of individuals responsible for strategy and important decisions. The operational level includes those who are doing the day-to-day ongoing work and might make decisions about their portion of the project but they don’t tackle larger issues (which are handled by the core). And the outer network consists of temporary or part-time members who are brought in for a particular stage of the project because of their specialized expertise. Using this hierarchy groups together those who need to collaborate with one another for particular purposes (and exclude others who aren’t important to that process).
Train for collaboration. Many skills are difficult to train and develop. Some experts, for example, contend that leadership is more nature than nurture. Not so with collaboration. PricewaterhouseCoopers, for instance, has had great success in training employees to collaborate by targeting communication skills, emotional intelligence, teamwork, and networking.
Have role clarity but task uncertainty. Many managers believe that teams collaborate best when the roles of members are flexible but the group has a clear idea of how to get from A to B. But the reverse is actually true, according to a study of more than 50 teams in different industries. That research found that collaboration increased when people had clearly defined roles but were uncertain about how to achieve the team’s goals. The uncertainty encouraged everyone to collaborate and think more creatively about different ways in which to fulfill the group’s mission.