Barriers to Internal Collaboration

Internal collaboration is a beautiful thing, when everything works the way it’s supposed to. Sometimes it can feel like there needs to be an elaborate ritual during a planetary alignment to get everything sorted out properly. There are so many wonderful tools out there to make collaborating effortless and easy, but unfortunately these tools can’t fix most of the problems that get in the way of good collaboration. Those problems generally come from the human element in the equation, and no amount of technology is going to be able to change that.

Here are a few of the barriers to effective collaboration that I see on a near daily basis:

  • Your co-workers are less tech savvy than you are. This generation is coming up on the heels of the baby boomer generation, who are generally less knowledgeable about new technology. My office just switched from a desktop email client that had been in place for 20 years to Google Apps. This switch allows for easier collaboration via the technology, but too many of our employees are digging in their heels and choosing to complain about the new system rather than learn how to use it the way it’s meant to be used. Change is a hard pill to swallow, especially when it involves learning something new.
  • Office Politics. Yes, I am opening this can of worms. Office politics are present in every organization. And they often get in the way of productivity. Consider the case of two employees. One has worked in the office for 6 years while the other was hired last year. The two positions are supposed to be nearly identical in description. Yet, during the previous year many responsibilities were taken away from Employee 1 and given to Employee 2. While this may be a better move for the office, it creates a strain between the two employees that destroys  any collaborative environment.
  • Lack of Information and Communication. If we have not been able to effectively communicate with one another, it is quite likely that I will resist collaborating with you. If I can’t figure out how to do what you do (and vice versa), any attempt at collaborating will become a tangled jumble. Last year I was tasked with collaborating with a team of software developers from a well known company in order to tweak a new product in ways that would be useful for us. As much as I tried, I was never able to clearly communicate with them what exactly we needed from the product. My knowledge of our processes never jived with their perceived knowledge of what we needed. They never understood what we wanted and the whole project tanked (well, they spun it into positive PR, but as far as our office is concerned we got zero benefit from the project).

It doesn’t matter how many technology gadgets you have if the human element isn’t behind collaboration. Once the human element is on board, then you can go have fun with the technology…and find even more barriers!


Posted on October 18, 2011, in LIBR 246 Web 2.0 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. You bring up some great points.

    “many responsibilities were taken away from Employee 1 and given to Employee 2. ”

    A similar thing happened in the library where I volunteer. While the two employees seem to get along and work together, I’m sure “employee 1” still has some hurt feelings about the changes in responsibilities that she had for so long and maybe even some resentment for how “employee 2” was changing things.

    Despite this situation, I’d like to think my library still manages effective internal collaboration, even though there is always room for improvement.

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