Over the past two decades, the time that managers and employees spend in collaborative activities has skyrocketed by 50 percent or more. But don’t mistake this increase in collaboration for healthy collaboration–that’s a far call from the reality.
Much of the collaboration that happens in organizations today is inefficient and dysfunctional. In fact, 20 to 35 percent of value-added collaborations come from only 3 to 5 percent of your employees, according to research by Babson College Professor, Rob Cross.
Now that organizations are steeped in collaborative dysfunction, how do they course correct? As a leader, clarity should be your North Star metric.
Clarity is a precursor to both healthy collaboration and a host of other organizational outcomes. And it is one of the most powerful indicators of success in today’s organizations, especially as they become increasingly distributed.
There are three fundamental drivers of clarity. As a leader, it’s important that you understand–and be able to measure–these key drivers.
1. Establish connectivity.
Connectivity is the first driver of clarity. Work often happens through informal structures, rather than through formal organizational structures like roles, functional teams, and hierarchies. And so, collaboration cannot be understood by looking solely at these formal structures.
Instead, connectivity involves how your employees are connected through tasks, cross-functional projects, ad-hoc teams, goals, and different technologies across formal and informal channels. With employees oscillating between 13 tools an average of 30 times per day, according to research by my workplace Asana, connectivity is increasingly difficult to understand.
In advising hundreds of companies over the past several years and helping them understand how their employees are connected, I’ve learned that connectivity is often taken for granted and poorly understood by leaders. By leveraging new technologies such as work management systems, you can start to understand how your employees are connected. Mapping out your organization’s connectivity is the first step to understanding how work actually happens and is key to achieving organizational clarity.
2. Provide visibility.
Visibility is the second key driver of clarity. Visibility involves ensuring that your employees understand and are able to track how their work contributes to broader company goals, as well as your company mission. This understanding is ever fleeting in organizations today. According to Asana’s research, less than half of employees (46 percent) know how their work contributes to their company’s mission. Visibility breeds clarity and helps your employees understand why their work matters.
Your employees also need visibility into their work output and they should have the tools to measure this output over time. Technologies that meaningfully assess workload distribution are key for gaining visibility into work output. This type of visibility will enable you and your employees to pinpoint when task, project, and goal performance are veering off track. And it will also empower your employees to adopt a data-driven approach to assessing their work performance, rather than merely going through the motions.
3. Encourage efficiency.
Efficiency is the final driver of clarity. By many accounts, efficiency is the new productivity. Productivity is output per unit of time, whereas efficiency is the best possible output per unit of time. Don’t conflate the two. As we embark on new ways of work, it’s no longer about executing the greatest volume of tasks–it’s about doing the right tasks in the best possible way.
Efficiency is enabled by both connectivity and visibility. Peak efficiency happens when employees are connected across different task, project, geographic, and functional silos. And it is fueled by visibility. Visibility into how work happens enables you to build workflows and integrations that leverage automation and AI to empower more efficient work.
Efficiency is also a key precursor to effective work-life balance and a powerful anecdote against burnout. When you empower your employees to produce the best possible work output, not only are they higher-performing employees, but they are less susceptible to burnout, thanks to their newfound clarity. Asana’s research has found that, among employees who feel burnt out, about one in three (29 percent) report feeling overworked as a result of a lack of clarity on tasks and roles.
Especially with the broader shift to remote and hybrid work, clarity is in short supply and high demand in organizations. This is underscored by the reality that employees spend an eye-popping 60 percent of their time on “work about work”–tasks like tracking down the status of work and duplicating work–rather than the strategic jobs that you hired them to perform. When it comes to the next era of work and empowering your employees for success, clarity is conviction.