Team Collaboration

Collaborating a team at meltdown point as business critical deadlines loom

An Australian organisation with significant international presence was undergoing dramatic cost restructuring and changes across the board.

Central to the success of the changes was the collaboration of two very distinctive divisions. As well as having to facilitate the collaboration change, there was a radical shift in business model from an overhead to a cost centre where they had to now charge internal clients for their services. The situation was compounded by both divisions falling within a highly demanding area of the business, which had intense pressure points in quarterly business cycles. Both divisions had grown rapidly with existing services evolving into new forms. Tensions were escalating to breakpoint very quickly, with people beginning to disengage or ‘pull out’ of the collaboration process, taking with them their position and knowledge – all the while critical deadlines loomed. The challenge was to bridge the divide effectively and quickly enable them to pull together to achieve essential outcomes.

Sarah established a safe and confidential environment for staff interviews to take place; she diagnosed the real situation through a representative range of interviews. Enabling staff to express their true feelings, the interviews also served to determine realistic outcomes and develop an effective path forward. The individuals needed to feel valued and understood, whilst abandoning their own resentment and anger. Sarah quickly identified that both groups had become derailed by misperceptions and misunderstandings. New channels of communication needed to be forged, allowing both divisions to see that neither party had failed or was to blame and to, more importantly, understand and value each other.

Two facilitated events followed. The first identified the current situation without assigning blame. Instead, the aim was to clarify and mutually understand their unilateral predicament. This incorporated a process that allowed them to understand each other’s perspective. This successfully led both parties to willingly participate in a process identifying the other party’s issues and developing a strategic action plan to take mutual responsibility and accountability for resolving the issues. The daylong process created a strong positive foundation, which demonstrated their ability to successfully work together interdependently.