The costs of ineffective collaboration — and how to avoid them

The costs of ineffective collaboration — and how to avoid them

Good collaboration can unlock innovation. But when it’s mismanaged, it can weigh your teams down — and come with long-term costs.

The costs of ineffective collaboration — and how to avoid them

Good collaboration can unlock innovation. But when it’s mismanaged, it can weigh your teams down — and come with long-term costs.

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Written by
Leah Retta
Leah Retta
Senior Content Marketing Manager
Leah Retta
Leah Retta

What are the habits of a healthy team?

We often hear that managers should encourage independence, creativity, psychological safety—and collaboration with other teams. Collaboration can make your work better, but it’s still a delicate practice that takes work to get it right. 

In fact, most of us can think of a time (or several) when collaboration has gone poorly. A lot can go wrong when your work depends on other people: coworkers might show up to meetings unprepared, teams’ goals may be misaligned, or you end up  spending hours re-doing work because someone didn’t clearly communicate their vision. 

The consequences of failing to properly invest in processes that enable strong, effective collaboration can be debilitating on both your teams and your businesses. Below, let’s explore the hidden costs of mismanaged collaboration — and what teams can avoid them and set themselves up for success. 

The power of true collaboration

English scholar John Donne once wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself” — a reflection of how humans are often reliant on one another and stronger as a unit. This sentiment, one where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, is the core of why collaboration is so powerful. 

When teams within organizations are able to successfully come together to build and create, it can unlock innovative work that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Marketing teams in particular must collaborate with other teams to put their ideas into action. For example, marketers often work with developers to build custom elements for a website and with designers to polish visuals for a feature announcement. 

Imagine asking an engineer to build a marketing website on their own, with no input from marketing — or asking a marketing team to plan a product launch without any input from the product team. It’s hard to imagine either of these projects going well without input and support from other players who can bring in expert knowledge, skills, and perspectives.

But this cross-team innovation is only possible when it’s managed well. 

Poor collaboration hurts everyone

Teams that don’t invest in effective collaboration may take on a variety of costs. Below, let’s explore what these costs are and their implications. 

Inefficient meetings waste time

If you’re not managing communication between your teams well, you risk wasting valuable time. For example, if cross-team meetings are spent bringing everyone else up to speed or steering people back on-topic, this signals a lack of clarity, agenda-setting, and direction from the meeting owner. 

Not only does this come with intangible costs — losing goodwill, a lack of trust, and an inability to maintain forward momentum — but also with monetary costs. If 6 people attended a meeting that failed to accomplish the core goal due to lack of preparation and strategy, and each earns an annual salary of $100,000, that hour-long meeting cost the company approximately $300 (1 hour x 6 people x $100,000 / 2,000 hours of work per year).

Inefficient asynchronous collaboration can also waste time 

Even outside of meetings, a lack of strategic alignment can massively waste time. For example, if you don’t communicate your vision clearly to the engineer who’s helping you build a reporting dashboard, you may both have to go through more iterations to get to the final product. Or, if you and another marketer are taking turns editing a slide deck asynchronously without communicating what the final output should look like, you risk compromising timelines because of an incessant flurry of back-and-forth revisions.

Team morale can suffer 

Mismanaged collaboration can negatively impact the teams involved when it comes to culture and morale. It’s hard to feel good about your job when you’re working inefficiently, attending meetings that could have been emails, and talking past one another. Left unchecked, that low morale can cause people to avoid working closely and openly with one another, disengage from their work, or even leave the company.

Company-wide goals become at risk 

Ineffective collaboration is particularly dangerous for large-scale goals that involve several teams. For example, a big product update may stumble because the marketing and product development teams aren’t able to come together to define primary objectives and outputs, the company’s revenue and its customers’ trust are at risk, costing the company both revenue and customers’ trust.

The opportunity to innovate is compromised

If cross-team collaboration always goes poorly, teams will start avoiding working together altogether and stick to their silos. As a result, they’re less likely to unlock the opportunity to ideate and come up with innovative solutions to business problems.

How to chart a path toward successful teamwork

While bringing people together can be complicated and challenging to get right, the teams that are determined to make collaboration seamless and effective are the ones that will be best positioned in the long-term. Consider the following strategies to set your team up for collaborative success. 

Focus meetings on discussions, not updates

When meetings are purposeful and focused, they’re more engaging. You can spend your time discussing hard decisions rather than getting people up to speed, and people leave feeling productive and participatory to outcomes. Setting a clear agenda, assigning a strict time-keeper, and sending out materials ahead of time are all ways to keep collaboration smooth and projects moving. 

Enable your teams to work in tandem 

Let’s return to an earlier example: two marketers who are taking turns editing a slide deck. They should probably use a collaborative, web-based slide tool to tackle this work in parallel, rather than sentencing themselves to painful handoffs. This is true when it comes to websites as well: for example, the team at Oyster got their websites to market six times faster after they started using Webflow’s page branching features to make web updates in parallel. 

Use tools that eliminate the need for unnecessary collaboration

While collaboration can be powerful, bringing too many cooks into the kitchen for every task or project can hinder success.  For example, Dropbox Sign’s marketing, engineering, and design teams use Webflow to improve their internal workflows for their website, bringing marketing, design, and development teams closer together to streamline development processes. Marketers and designers are able to gain more autonomy and technical teams are able to reclaim time to focus on high-impact projects. The outcome is a win-win that reserves time to collaborate on what’s most important to tackle their collective goals.

Similarly, features like edit mode make it possible for content editors to safely edit site content without risk of breaking the site or designs — and speeding up time-to-launch in the process. 

Effective collaboration is table stakes for today’s teams 

“Collaboration” can often seem like a buzzword, and some of the cynicism about it is well-earned. But when you get it right, collaboration is worth the hype. 

If you cultivate an environment where teams can come together and flourish, you can unlock solutions and outcomes that wouldn't otherwise be possible to achieve when working in silos. To unlock the untapped potential of your marketing, design, and development teams, invest in a culture of clear communication and purposeful meetings, and bring on tools that create tight-knit processes that help your teams remain productive and put them on a path toward success.

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Last Updated
April 8, 2024