Every Company Desperately Needs a Chief Collaboration Officer

“Too many meetings and too many emails”

…is the cry of today’s knowledge workers. Both meetings and emails are artifacts of well-intended collaboration spun out of control. Your most precious company resource — your employees’ time — is too often squandered in unnecessary or unproductive collaborative pursuits:

  • Meetings with no apparent purpose or agenda
  • Endless email chains with half of your department copied
  • Repetitive or duplicative status update meetings
  • More meeting attendees than the content mandates

If these symptoms sound familiar, you are not alone.

Rampant time wasted in the name of collaboration is an epidemic in corporate America. Most companies don’t have a Chief Collaboration Officer but desperately need one. A quick LinkedIn search for individuals with this title yields a mere 1,150 results. It’s been eight years since Professor Morten Hansen and Scott Tapp pitched the idea that organizations need a Chief Collaboration Officer, and very few companies have heeded this advice since.

To keep the collaborative demands of your company in check, your CCO (or someone acting as such) should take the following two steps:

One: Inspect how you spend your time as diligently as you inspect how you spend your money.

Payroll is nearly every organization’s most significant expense, so it’s critical to understand how you invest your human resources. You didn’t hire all of these great people to attend meetings all day. Ask yourself: are your people focused on your business’s current top priorities, or are they getting bogged down with time-consuming, low priority issues and meetings? Most executives have no way of answering this critical question.

The phrase “time-tracking” is a loaded one. It sets off mental alarm bells and makes some people suspect that the outputs are being used by “bean counters” for nefarious purposes. But in an organization with a high degree of trust and sense of common purpose, an audit of how you spend your time forces a healthy conversation about where the business is investing its time and whether or not it is prioritizing appropriately.[1] It gives your company the ability to consistently measure whether it is truly focused on its top priorities and, if it is not, to adapt accordingly.

Two: Give your company’s collaboration a structured cadence.

No one sends an email or schedules a meeting with the intent of wasting others’ time, but often, that is the result. Providing structure to collaboration significantly reduces the number of ad-hoc meetings, emails, and other collaborative demands on your employees. This allows them to better plan and execute their work. At CrossLead, we refer to this defined cadence of standing meetings as the “Operating Rhythm.” The appropriate Operating Rhythm will vary from one company to the next, but generally, it is a mix of short daily stand-ups, weekly forums to discuss key learnings and decisions from the week, and quarterly plan reviews. Additional standing meetings may be helpful to manage continuous cross-functional demands between specific teams. Once implemented, your Operating Rhythm will become your company’s heartbeat.

A defined Operating Rhythm drastically reduces additional collaborative demands placed on employees by eliminating the need for duplicative status update meetings and lengthy email chains. It centralizes communication to one place and one time. It fosters intentional communication — each of these meetings should have a published purpose and agenda, so those who attend know what to expect (and those who skip knowing  what they’re missing). While the content will vary with each instance of the meeting, the structure doesn’t have to.