Posts in Collaboration Lab
Reduced infighting leading to improved quality of delivery to customers

Cristina, a leader of consulting teams tried out some of the Collaboration Lab tools to get her people collaborating more effectively. Prior to her doing this team leaders tended to compete against each other for work and resources, frequently going to senior managers to resolve disputes and score points over each other. Their teams were following the same pattern and the result was that meeting customer needs had become a lesser priority than surviving the office politics. Crazy! 

To turn things around Cristina got her people focusing on understanding company values and culture and working to them as the norm. In doing this they were able to identify the behaviours that were particularly damaging to effective collaboration, such as not resolving operational issues as and when they happened, avoiding uncomfortable conversations and failing to learn from mistakes which were then repeated. 

Having identified what was holding them back the teams were able to stop this cycle of damaging behaviours and introduce more helpful collaborative ways of working. Remarkably quickly the teams, their leaders and others in the organisation noticed the beneficial impact. More importantly, however, feedback from customers showed the quality of delivery had greatly improved. 

Turning a bad situation into a good customer relationship

Senior Delivery Manager

A senior manager was asked to step in and sort out an issue with one of the company's biggest clients that had escalated into a serious problem. Remembering the techniques he'd learned on his C-Lab programme, he avoided engaging in a blame game argument and listened to the customer attentively and objectively. Taking responsibility for the situation he apologised for the inconvenience caused to the customer and proposed an unexpected way forward. The customer was surprised and also delighted and readily agreed to the manager's solution. In addition, the client relationship is now in much better shape and the risk of future escalations has been greatly reduced.

$1 million sale made by meeting a customer's true need

Consultant

A consultant who, as part of practising what he’d learned on our C-Lab programme regarding how to really pay attention to a customer to understand their needs, decided to change his approach with a low-value client. Instead of simply taking the customer’s order for a low-value product renewal, the consultant helped the client work out what value he wanted from the supplier. The outcome was a $1 million sale — a significant increase on the original value — a delighted customer, and an overjoyed sales account manager.

Being heard without competing for air time

Senior Consultant

This senior solutions architect observed that he often attended meetings but was unable to make a contribution. He reported that meetings rarely had an agenda, usually ran out of time and often had too many people participating. As a result it was the people who interrupted and had the loudest voices that usually got heard. He found this frustrating because interrupting and cutting across others just wasn't his style. Further, he often had information to share that was critical for decision making. If he couldn't do this during the meeting he had to find another way to get this information to his peers, by which time is was usually too late. The tools learned on Collaboration Lab ensured he could establish new ground rules when it came to meetings - there is an agenda; air time is shared equally; everyone is invited to make a contribution and no-one is interrupted. He reports he is still astonished that people can say less during meetings but get more done and that meetings can be a calm, respectful exchanges of diverse thoughts.  

Data discoveries lead to preventing technical escalations

Line Manager

A line manager used the techniques learned in C-Lab to uncover hidden data regarding serious escalations on a high-impact project that was costing the company a significant amount of executive time, lost margin and seriously affecting customer satisfaction and confidence.

The manager discovered a technical lead could spot scenarios in advance that would lead to a serious escalation for his team. However, the technical lead did nothing as he didn’t recognise it was his responsibility to step in and help in this way. The line manager helped the technical lead connect his own lack of action with the highly visible and painful escalations which went all the way to the top of the organisation. Subsequently line manager and technical lead put a process in place which acted as an early warning system to prevent technical escalations. When we checked on progress 3 months later the project hadn’t had any technical escalations, where previously they'd averaged 3 or 4 a month.

From overstretched ‘fixer’ to trusted adviser

PRINCIPAL SOLUTIONS ARCHITECT

Following his C-Lab programme this principal solutions architect used the techniques he’d learned to influence the outcomes achieved by people he works with, despite not having line manager responsibility for most of them. He was able to be more reasoned in discussions, asking lots of questions to help others think something through for themselves, rather than telling them they were wrong or giving them his solution. This resulted in better problem solving and decision making and in his more junior colleagues taking more responsibility for getting things done.

The consultant became a trusted advisor to others, who they valued as someone who could be a mentor that would work with them, think things through and get results, rather than a hero who stepped in to solve problems when things went wrong.

Thinking critically to piece together a winning proposal

Principal Solutions Architect

This solutions architect used what he’d learned on C-Lab to help a team he was part of think critically when putting together a customer proposal. He was influencing rather than mandating and it took him a number of iterations but he eventually taught the team to focus on understanding what the customer needed, rather than going with their assumptions as they had done in the past. As a result the final proposal was a better fit for the customer, easier for them to understand and ultimately successful. The team also has a framework to use for all future proposals.

Better results through everyone contributing

Delivery Assurance Manager

While leading a call to agree a common process for tracking projects and ready to implement his template which had been piloted and modified, this manager remembered what he’d learned on his Collaboration Lab master class. He therefore held off from going with his solution and got everyone on the call to share insights, risks and concerns. As the meeting continued and hidden data came to light, the Delivery Assurance Manager realised his own template, which he was heavily invested in and proud of, wasn't going to work. The group kept working and ultimately generated a revised approach that the whole group was bought in to. Working together in this way ensured a new corporate initiative had been well thought through and was supported by stakeholders. It also strengthened the group’s ability to collaborate in future.

A sense of ease leads to calm, productive meetings

Practice Lead

Using one of the techniques taught in C-lab, this practice leader manages his team so that everyone has an opportunity to contribute in order to innovate around how to deliver a new service. Recalling the sense of ease his team felt as a group during training, he was able to transfer that to the people he works with and leads. He uses this approach in all of his virtual meetings and people know how to work this way which means meetings are purposeful, calm and productive.

An unlikely approach to reducing escalations and improving the quality of delivery

Senior Solution Architect

So many project based organisations want to know how they can increase the timeliness of project delivery, ensure the quality of delivery is good and margin is protected. This senior SA was astonished to discover that addressing these age old challenges was simpler - although not easy - than he thought.

Using the techniques learned on his Collaboration Lab programme he realised that slowing meetings down, staying focused on an agenda and listening intently to everyone present enabled him to get clarity on each person's perspective. He realised that listening in the right way enabled him to hear who was on the right page and who needed correction. Armed with the insight he could correct people immediately or take the appropriate steps after the meeting. Over time he observed a significant reduction in re-work, projects were meeting deadlines and the quality of work was improving. This led to more satisfied customers and no costly and demoralising escalations and margin was protected. Simple but very effective!

Getting the whole team talking and listening respectfully

Regional Practice Director

This director appreciated how the advanced facilitation tools learned on the C-Lab master class help facilitate high quality discussions, where all parties feel listened to and respected by all others and they collectively agree well thought out solutions. He is using the tools in forming his new team, which has been established to take a new offer out to the customer, enabling a team of energetic, high performers who have lots of ideas to have robust and challenging discussions, to communicate respectfully as they formulate the group’s strategy for engaging with the rest of the organisation and with customers.

Improved results, happier clients and a better motivated team

TECHNICAL TEAM LEADER

This technical team leader is getting much better results simply by listening to clients more attentively and asking them a lot more questions than he did before his Collaboration Lab programme. The clients still need to make their own decisions but the consultant now feels able to guide them without forcing them down a particular route. This has meant clients better understand what they’re asking for, the consultant better understands what they want and what they decide upon is actually doable. Ultimately clients feel they’re getting a much better service than they were previously and the consultant and his team are highly motivated to keep things that way.

Reducing resourcing issues by accepting there’s more than one way

PRINCIPAL SOLUTIONS ARCHITECT

Prior to his Collaboration Lab programme this solutions architect believed that, if team members, in his opinion, were not capable of doing the work, the best solution was to replace them. He didn't consider this was difficult for people higher up the line and put pressure on other projects - he was just concerned with getting the best people for his project. Surely, it was better for the failing team member, the project team and himself to move 'incompetent' people off the project.

Following his C-Lab programme, however, the solutions architect worked hard to understand how to mentor team members to improve their capability. He realised that this was much better for the team member and himself, got better results for the project team and didn’t cause resourcing issues for other projects. He also found that he enjoyed his job much more with this new approach.