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Success in complex organizations depends increasingly on collaborative work.

No one person has all the answers. Yet collaboration and teamwork are not heavily promoted.

“ . . . In most cases, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations (collaborative work) come from only 3% to 5% of employees.”

So goes an article in Harvard Business Review’s (HBR) January-February 2016 edition (pg 77). They go on further to claim:

“The distribution of collaborative work is often extremely lopsided . . .”

Cut Waste Out of Meetings You Attend and Encourage More Collaborative Work

“Over the past two decades, the amount of time managers and employees spend on collaborative work has ballooned.  At many companies, people now spend about 80% of their time in meetings or answering colleagues’ requests.”

Imagine that we could improve the productivity of meetings by only five percent.

In other words, reduce meeting time by three minutes per hour, with comparable outputs. What would that be worth in your organization?  What would that be worth to you personally over the future of your career?  For the average individual, we are talking about tens of thousands of dollars.  Therefore, make it incumbent on yourself to encourage more collaborative work.

Here’s how to encourage more collaborative work:

  1. Demand an articulate and written explanation of the meeting purpose, scope, deliverables (ie, objectives), and simple agenda BEFORE the meeting begins. If someone needs you to attend, then you have every right to show up prepared.
  2. Encourage the use of ground rules. A group of people multi-tasking on laptops and cell phones will waste more of YOUR time, than anything else.
  3. Keep the leader on task. Don’t allow the leader or group to ramble on without focus.  Once focus is established, do not permit scope creep.  Remind everyone about the question or topic at hand.  Most scope creep involves discussions outside the scope of the meeting, such as “Why are we doing this in the first place?”
  4. Capture solid notes, especially about decision points and outputs. Make the deliverables clear, especially when the leader is doing a poor job of writing things down, and presumes to be relying on memory after the meeting to set up a record.
  5. Challenge other participants to make them defend themselves. Request examples, evidence, proof of their claims. Discover under what conditions they may be right, and under what conditions they may be wrong.
  6. Seek out the objective measurement for modifiers (eg, adjectives and adverbs). If someone wants “quality”, seek a better understanding how to measure it. To one person, a bowl of curry may be spicy but to another person, it’s not.  Seek out the Scoville Units to help them reach agreement.
  7. Ask people what they are going to tell their supervisors and peers when the meeting is over about what was accomplished during the meeting. Strive to ensure that it sounds like all the participants were in the same meeting.

Chief Collaboration Officers

Granted, much of the suggested material above is the responsibility of the session leader.  But if they won’t do it, you better. Remember, it’s worth tens of thousands of dollars in your pocket to promote more collaborative work. HBR states further (pg 79) that collaboration may answer many of your biggest business challenges. They encourage leaders to promote collaborative work and teamwork, and suggest . . .

“. . . we believe that the time may have come for organizations to hire chief collaboration officers.”


Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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