Could You be Overlooking the No.1 Source of Complexity Today?
Priority Whack-a-Mole: Why efforts at consolidation are failing
Show all

Has Internal Collaboration Become A Bottleneck?

Leaders are undaunted in their ambition, with exciting projects and initiatives abounding1. However, it could all become unstuck at the point of execution, or to be more precise at the point of collaboration.  

Poor collaboration is fast emerging as the No. 1 barrier to getting stuff done. However, while cutting the number of internal meetings is important, it is not enough!

It is time to get radical about collaboration! That means empowering leaders and their teams to optimize the way they work, interact and align.

Executive Summary

  1. The Problem: Poor internal collaboration is a critical bandwidth issue. It is the No. 1 Barrier to getting stuff done within large organizations.
  2. Solution: It is time to adopt a more radical approach, transforming collaboration from a drain on time and productivity to a force multiplier in terms of performance, energy & innovation.
  3. It’s not just about meetings, but more generally the way we work, interact and align.
  4. The 9Rs Framework is a powerful guide to radical collaboration.
  5. The Way we Interact isn’t just about getting more done but collaborating in a way that brings out the best in each other.
  6. The Way We Align – there is no point in optimizing ways of working unless there is clarity regarding the work that needs to be done (i.e. results priorities and purpose)
  7. Powered by data, this is the ultimate means of getting more stuff done. Especially, the more of the important strategic stuff.
  8. Action Steps: There is a clear set of steps that leaders can take.

This insight emerged from strategic conversations with business leaders on the requirements of delivering today’s performance & tomorrow’s transformation. It is part of our most exciting research yet:

Collaboration – a double-edged sword?

Strategic projects and initiatives cannot be delivered in by one or a few people working in isolation.  They cannot be delivered in silos either2. But, while collaboration is essential, it a double-edged sword.

Collaboration should cut through important work on projects & initiatives. Yet, too often it also cuts into productivity & efficiency. Indeed, it can cut productivity & efficiency by up to 35%. That makes it the No.1 barrier to getting stuff done.

Internal collaboration now accounts for almost three quarters of the working week, say executives. But, with more than half of all internal collaboration adding little or no value, there are cracks in the very foundation of how we work in large organizations.

No. 1 Obstacle to Getting Stuff Done

The ability to deliver the organization’s ambitious projects and initiatives depends on a key group of busy leaders to make it happen. Those leaders are juggling an increasing workload. So much so, that their bandwidth or capacity can constrain momentum.  

You have lots of ambitious plans projects and priorities, a long ‘To Do’ list too. But, how are you ever going to get it all done? Especially, given the amount of time that you spend on internal meetings and the work that they generate. Well, the answer lies in tackling the No. 1 obstacle that you (and most other busy leaders) face – the amount of time lost on poor internal collaboration.

The radical idea is that collaboration can be transformed from a drain on time and productivity to a force multiplier in terms of performance, energy and innovation.

Why It’s Time to Get Radical About Collaboration

To grab attention, the word ‘radical’ is often used for example ‘radical candor’3 and ‘radical adaptability’4.  Now it’s time for Radical Collaboration! Let’s not put a trademark on it, however, so that the idea can become open and widespread.  

Here’s the backdrop:

Of course, it’s not just about internal meetings, there are also e-mails, instant messages and so on:

  • Executives are interrupted, in one way or another, by colleagues on average every 15 minutes during the working day.

Combine these various pieces of data, and you might be thinking that this is such an extreme situation (what one of our clients calls a ‘collaboration train wreck’) that something radical is required.

Poor collaboration has major resource and bandwidth implications. Our data (from a dozen 7 figure projects) suggests that it can cut productivity and efficiency by up to 35%, speed and agility by up to 50%. Moreover, it can increase project risk by up to 20% being directly linked to two important effects – project hubris and nodding dogs syndrome.

Why stop at cutting the number of meetings when there is the potential to turn collaboration from a drain on time and productivity to a force multiplier in terms of performance, energy and innovation.

Half of internal collaboration (53%) adds little or no value.

The Potential for Radical Benefits

It is not just about ‘fixing a problem’, but exploiting a big opportunity too. People are the key resource within many organizations and poor collaboration is a major drain on their skills, creativity and engagement.

Thus, anything that improves collaboration removes an important resource bottleneck and can have a radical effect on performance (as well as on a range of other variables such as pressure, vitality, innovation and so on).

‘Here is a radical idea’ says one of our coaching team. ‘Collaboration is essential, and we need to do more of it, not less of it’ she continues. ‘Simply turning up to meetings is not enough’ she adds. ‘Every leader has to work at it. Together, we need to make sure that collaboration is as effective as possible in building new networks (within and between teams), enabling maximum productivity, inspiring innovation and fostering the relationships that enable people to grow and thrive’ she adds. 

Radical collaboration is when leaders (and their teams) take control of the way they work, interact and align

Searching for Radical Solutions

There is a growing awareness of the need to tackle the issue of collaboration and some solutions have been radical in ways. Most are focused on internal meetings, with some organizations setting targets to reduce:

  • The number of internal meetings (e.g. 20-30%)
  • The duration of meetings
  • The number of meeting attendees
  • The days in which meetings can take place and so on. 
  • The aim is to enable people to get more stuff done and free up time for more valuable work. It is also to remove an important source of frustration.  

Cutting the number of meetings or the time spent in meetings is an obvious strategy, but not a very radical one. While it will likely free up some time, there is a bigger prize to be had. Indeed, with levels of productivity and efficiency put at 67% it is a big prize indeed.

Relying on meeting sanctions alone may not be enough.

Cutting down on the number of meetings is clearly one strategy to improve the effectiveness of internal collaboration. Fewer meetings will hopefully mean that more work gets done and that those meetings that do happen are better. However, relying on meeting sanctions alone may not be enough.  

Client Story
Productivity and engagement now top the agenda. But, in addressing these issues, one Leadership Team had a startling realization: There is ‘the work’, and then there is the ‘work about the work’. The team discovered that ‘Work about the work’ accounted for more than 50% of its working week. That includes internal meetings, procedures, reporting and so on. It was a significant source of inefficiency that was previously hidden. Read the full story here.

Beyond Meetings: The Way We Work

Although very important, how people within organizations meet is just one aspect of how they work together. So in the words of one of our colleagues: ‘Let’s cut the number of internal meetings, but let’s not stop there! Let’s not just address how and when we meet, but more fundamentally the ‘way we work. That is the radical part, although it is more obvious, than radical, when you delve deeper’.  

Organizational strategy, structure and structure are not something that leaders can easily change. However, when it comes to the work in front of them, much is within their immediate control.  Specifically, within their units and teams they can optimize the ‘Way We Work’ together. We call this the superpower of teams – a power that is as massive as it is under-used.  

‘I always joke that the day I see a Return on Collaboration score of 100% is a day that I will retire’ says is one of our coaching team. ‘Collaboration like any other aspect of human behavior and interaction is never going to be perfect. Rather, it is something that individuals and teams must work on continuously.’ he continues. ‘…and surprisingly, the most powerful to for the job is front-of-mind awareness using a framework such as the 9Rs’ he concludes.

Radical collaboration is when leaders (and their teams) take control of the way they work, interact and align. While the benefits are radical, the approach is pretty straightforward and thus within the control of most leaders. It does not require a change in culture, a new piece of technology or anything else.

The 9Rs of Radical Collaboration

As any team approaches its most important collaborative work, it can check to ensure clarity and alignment on 9 factors, called the 9Rs.

Specifically, clarifying that the Right People are in the Right Roles, Doing the Right Work, working together in the Right Way, with the Right Resources & the Right Rewards to achieve the Right Results. 

Given the new realities of hybrid working, it can also ensure that work is being done in the Right Place and at the Right Time.  This 9Rs formula is the performance mantra for radical collaboration. But, more than that is a practical and actionable pathway to Radical Collaboration. Powered by data, it is the ultimate means of getting more stuff done. Especially, the more of the important strategic stuff.

The Way We Work is the first of three dimensions of radical collaboration as a means of getting more stuff (especially strategic stuff) done. Lets’s explore the second dimension next – the ‘Way We Interact’.

The 9Rs is the performance mantra for radical collaboration.

The Dynamics of Radical Collaboration

The ‘way we work’ (and the 9Rs) is the second dimension of radical collaboration. The other is the ‘way we interact’ – this is important because while we want to make our work more productive, effective, innovative and so on, that is not enough. We also need to optimize the ‘way we interact’ – to develop positive and supportive relations within and between teams.  

When we optimize the ‘way we work’ and the ‘way we interact’ together, we can simultaneously boost organizational performance and organizational health.  The latter, which is often called culture, has a significant impact on performance. Indeed, some research suggests that it could account for half of success5.  

The ‘way we interact’ is defined in terms of the behavioral norms within a team, specifically 8 specific team dynamics (incl. trust & respect, tension & cohesion, discipline & persistence, etc.). These often evolve within teams without conscious consideration, but with awareness become within a team’s direct control.  Not only are the 8 dynamics essential to optimizing productivity but also to enabling people to bring out the best in each other.

The 9Rs is a performance mantra for radical collaboration.

How to Align for Radical Collaboration

The third dimension of radical collaboration is the ‘way we align’. This centers on alignment regarding results, priorities and purpose. After all, there is no point in optimizing ways of working unless there is clarity regarding the work that needs to be done – that is the work that addresses key business needs and priorities at this time.

Why is this Radical?

The word radical is perhaps overused, but here are the Top 5 Reasons we believe it applies here:  

  1. Simply cutting the number of meetings is not enough!
  2. The issue of internal collaboration is so important and the problem / opportunity so great that something radical needs to be done.
  3. Collaboration should be a force multiplier rather than a drain and performance engagement.
  4. The benefits are radical, even though the approach is relatively straightforward.
  5. The idea of empowering teams to own and optimize the way that they work, interact and align is radical (even though shouldn’t be).

Radical Collaboration – How We Help

Pitstop AnalyticsTM helps leaders to optimize organizational performance through radical collaboration. Here is how it works:

  • Captures data on ways of working, interacting and aligning within teams and between teams. To do this, it gathers perspectives from leaders teams and their stakeholders, comparison to external benchmarks and runs it all through a sophisticated algorithm.
  • Provides leaders with the insights and the tools to empower their people to own and optimize the ‘way we work’ and the ‘way we interact’.
  • This systematic data-driven approach enables the tracking of progress towards the achievement of specific quantifiable goals (often centering on 4 BIG numbers related to performance and potential).
  • The process starts by clarifying what the leader(s) want to achieve. These aim is to benefit not just the organization, but also the teams (and team members) involved.      
  • It is about getting real, it starts with analysis of the opportunities and challenges faced by leaders and their teams. It reflects the reality of working within a large organization.
  • The approach is centered on key business needs and priorities as they relate to your team(s), projects and initiatives.
  • Stakeholders and their needs are at the center of the process6

Checklist for Busy Leaders

  1. Reduce the number of internal meetings. This will free up time for more valuable work and remove an important source of frustration.
  2. Optimize the Way We Work. This means clarifying the 9Rs: Right People, Right Roles, Right Work, Right Way, Right Resources, Right Rewards, Right Results, Right Place, and Right Time.
  3. Optimize the Way We Interact. This means embracing the 8 dynamics developing positive and supportive relations within and between teams.
  4. Align on results, priorities, and purpose. This will ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.
  5. Use data to track progress and make improvements. This will help you to see what is working and what needs to be changed.

  1. This could be the most ambitious generation of leaders yet. This is evident in the proliferation of projects and initiatives aimed at delivering short-term performance and longer-term transformation. See the data here. []
  2. As much as 70% of today’s work is collaborative, that includes work on strategic projects and initiatives. []
  3. Kim Scott, Radical Candor (updated) St. Martin’s Press, 2019 []
  4. Keith Ferrazzi, Kian Gohar, et al., Competing in the New World of Work: How Radical Adaptability Separates the Best from the Rest, Harvard Business Review Press, Feb 15, 2022 []
  5. Research suggests ‘organizational health’ accounts for up to 50% of success. See: Beyond Performance 2.0: A Proven Approach to Leading Large-Scale Change” by Scott Keller, Bill Schaninger, HBR Press.  []
  6. Input to the artwork from []

Comments are closed.