4 Common Challenges to Collaboration in the Workplace


image from Shutterstock

image from Shutterstock

A team that works together is a team that innovates, solves problems and produces winning designs. But on the road to creative nirvana, design professionals sometimes run into roadblocks.

The key is breaking down silo behavior that hinders cooperation. Here are four of the biggest obstacles to collaboration in the workplace, along with solutions for moving past them.

Obstacle 1: Other departments don’t understand creative professionals’ role and capabilities

Just as in-house designers have their own industry jargon and preferred methods of communication, so do marketing, sales and IT departments. The result could be talking past each other, false impressions and unrealistic expectations. Recognizing disconnects about the project direction all of this could be causing is the first step to breaking down silos.

The solution: During project kickoff meetings with other departments, spell out in clear terms what the creative team does and how long certain tasks take. This means keeping graphic design terms to a minimum and making sure other departments do the same with regard to their jargon. detailing what designers cannot do, such as meet deadlines if the scope changes significantly. If anything is ambiguous, seek clarification.

Next, decide how everyone involved in the project will keep in touch. Perhaps you will create a new team on Slack or Google Hangouts for instant messaging, or hold weekly conference calls. The overall goal is to be transparent and communicate effectively.

Obstacle 2: Creative professionals fail to socialize ideas with other departments

When we get busy, we can become so focused on a task that we forget to work together and learn from each other.

The solution: For greater collaboration in the workplace, you may need to take an unconventional approach, like Spredfast does. The company holds a biannual Hackweek during which employees throughout the organization form teams to work on a side project of their choosing. The event encourages collaboration across the organization and gets the creativity flowing.

Obstacle 3: Other departments see creative professionals as mere ‘order takers’

When the design team isn’t part of ideation or planning, the department in charge may expect creative professionals to simply follow their directives instead of partnering to shape strategy. This top-down mindset is the opposite of collaboration in the workplace.

The solution: The creative director or another ranking member of the creative team should be the first point of contact with other departments and have a say during decision-making and approval processes. Gently but firmly insist on being a part of the project from conception until completion.

It also helps to educate others about the creative team. One way would be to give a short presentation on your services during other departments’ staff meetings. Think of yourself as an agency that other divisions hire; you can even draft a formal SOW (service of work) for both parties to sign at the launch of a project.

Obstacle 4: There’s no time to meet

True collaboration in the workplace can’t happen if communication only occurs when there’s a problem. But it’s practically impossible to get everyone together.

The solution: Herding cats may not be necessary. There’s no rule that everyone has to attend every check-in meeting; smaller ones are easier to schedule. Only the initial kickoff/brainstorming session needs to include multiple people. Bonus: The fewer participants there are, the faster decisions can be made.

Breaking down silos and establishing a thriving collaborative culture require looking at the challenge from different angles, something that design professionals do well. For more tips and solutions, download Collaboration in the Workplace: How to Overcome 7 Common Challenges.