Beyond Collaboration Overload (Book Review).

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Rob Cross’s book Beyond Collaboration Overload will change the way you think about working together.
Everyone expects us all to work together, every day. Teams are more self-managing than team structures. Collaboration is only part of the job. But no one can teach you how to do it well.
This book is not intended to teach you how to collaborate effectively. It is a book about how you can collaborate less. But it’s more intentional. It explains how to determine when it’s your decision to make a decision and when you don’t need to involve others.
Connected Commons, an association of over 70 top organizations, has published a study that shows that too much collaboration can lead to stress, burnout, disengagement, and other negative effects. Yes, that’s right. Because you collaborate too much, you are performing less well.
It makes sense. It makes sense. Teams wait until everyone has had a chance to speak before making a decision. This slows down project work. We work too quickly and don’t give people time to reflect on the data. Collaboration is often inefficient because the people involved haven’t been trained on how to facilitate well.
This book offers strategies to reclaim your collaboration time and make it more relevant and productive.
It also includes exercises and tests (“coaching breaks”) that allow you to reflect on your collaboration experience and make better ones in the future.
The key takeaways
My key takeaway was to work together less and not worry too much about making decisions. This is a wake-up call for my naturally inclusive and collaborative nature. While I am able to take decisions and get things moving in my business, I struggle to lead projects. I tend to default towards a servant leadership style of looking at problems.
That is what I believe in a project setting. My lesson is how to make this collaborative activity productive and efficient, and not drain anyone else.
Another lesson was to allow other people to collaborate without me. We just added new employees to our team and it is strange to see them talking to each other, whereas in the past, everything was done through me. As the team grows, I won’t be able to play that role anymore. I cannot be a blocker.
As a final takeaway, I want to mention the importance of trust. It is essential if you expect people to be able to make decisions and work together. The book discusses creating a trusting working environment that is beneficial for all types of teams.
Other thoughts
Although the book presents a neurotypical view on collaboration experiences, it recognizes that personal productivity is only half of the problem. The faster we work, and the more tasks that come back to us after others have completed their part, the better.
Although there is a lot of information on building a network, it doesn’t seem to be relevant to project work. The book is well-researched, interesting, and the networking sections feel like they are aimed at project sponsors, or those in operational leader roles who want to effect change, rather than project managers. There are some good ideas on how to build an inner network that doesn’t take up too much of your time. This is a valuable skill for anyone working in any type of corporate or team environment.
The book’s main idea is that you will be able to win back time by being more efficient in your work. This will allow you to invest that time in great work and improving your overall well-being.
That is something I can stand behind.
Anyone who feels their team engagements are too heavy is going to love Beyond Collaboration Overload.