71. The evolution of collaboration and the Future of Work | Lisette Sutherland, Director of Collaboration Superpowers


Lisette Sutherland | Director of Collaboration Superpowers


This week we turn the focus of our conversation to collaboration and the Future of Work. Our guest is Lisette Sutherland, Director of Collaboration Superpowers.
In Episode 71 we explore the definition of collaboration, and how it can be measured, and if we should be measuring it.


Lisette Sutherland web


Lisette Sutherland is the Director of Collaboration Superpowers. Her company, provides individuals, teams, and managers with a roadmap of how to work together anywhere – successfully through online, interactive workshops given by professional licensed facilitators all over the world.

She is the author of the Work Together Anywhere Handbook, the host of a podcast featuring interviews with remote-working experts, and a facilitator of workshops on a variety of remote working topics.




[00:00:00] - Lisette Sutherland
Talking to each other is not collaboration. It doesn't really matter what you're measuring as long as the team feels that it's useful in terms of how it projects results.

[00:00:18] - Doug Foulkes
Hello, and welcome to episode 71 of Chaos & Rocketfuel: The Future of Work Podcast. I'm Doug Foulkes and I'm with the CEO of Pattyrn and WNDYR, Claire Haidar. Claire, how are you this evening?

[00:00:32] - Claire Haidar
I'm good, and you Doug?

[00:00:35] - Doug Foulkes
Yes. I'm probably not going to put in the fact that we're in a load shedding, but that's Africa at the moment.

[00:00:45] - Claire Haidar
No, I think we should because I was just going to say this is the reality of Africa, but not only Africa. I mean, so many different continents and countries are dealing with this issue at the moment. Interestingly enough I think the reason why it's good to highlight it is because it really is one of those factors that impact the future of work. If people don't have broadband and electricity, work becomes very difficult as you can testify.

[00:01:12] - Doug Foulkes
True, yeah. Working with a head torch and mobile Wi-Fi is not the best. But anyway, let's crack on. Today is the first chance we have to speak to Lisette Sutherland. Tell me a little bit about Lisette, Claire, and why is she on the podcast?

[00:01:27] - Claire Haidar
She's super high energy and she's a specialist in the area of collaboration. She's an author, she runs a training business in this area, and she really works with some very interesting clients around collaboration. Interestingly, she's one of those long-tenured people who've been in this area way before the pandemic hit. She really has seen things before and after. The reason why we wanted to bring her on as you know, Doug, is to specifically have that conversation around how does collaboration need to look in this new age of work that we find ourselves in?

[00:02:07] - Doug Foulkes
Excellent. Well, should we get straight into the first segment that we've got with Lisette?

[00:02:13] - Claire Haidar
Lisette, so good to have you on the podcast with us. I genuinely enjoyed our conversation that we had a few months ago, and I've been looking forward to this podcast with you. Welcome to being here with Doug and I on the show.

[00:02:26] - Lisette Sutherland
Thank you.

[00:02:27] - Claire Haidar
Kicking off this conversation with you, you're a collaboration expert, you're an author in this area, you work very closely with individuals and companies in this area. What I'd like us to do to just baseline the entire conversation is to actually understand from you what you believe the characteristics of healthy collaboration are, 'cause I think our entire conversation is going to flow from there.

[00:02:51] - Lisette Sutherland
Totally, and actually in giving my workshops I started to think about what does good collaboration even mean like when we dive into that. I started doing a bunch of research and I actually categorized all the things that I found into four different categories. That actually worked out pretty well in terms of your characteristics of healthy collaboration, and I've got them.

[00:03:12] - Lisette Sutherland
The first category I would say is the enjoyment category, do we like the work that we do and the people that we're working with? The second category would be the alignment category. Are there clear goals? Is the vision clear? Are the roles clear? Do we have an agreement for how we're going to work together, how work flows from one team to another, sort of that alignment? The third characteristic or category would be communication. Is it easy to visualize ideas? Are there clear decision making protocols, or is it easy to move from async to sync or to even have those distinctions in your organization? Then the fourth category would be accessibility, having one source of truth for tasks and information and having it be easy to get information and support.

[00:04:02] - Lisette Sutherland
Actually in my workshops what we do is we actually rate ourselves and our teams in each of these four categories, like I would call a target. Closer to the center is worse and outer is better. You start to get this picture that forms of collaboration. What I really like about it is that you can't just fix collaboration. If you're going to coach a team, you have to have something specific to go into it. What I like about this sort of graph is that it paints a picture and it gives you a clear… Like one of those categories is always the one that has a clear need to be worked on most, so it's always a great place to start for team. Anyway, that's how I would define my characteristics in a long way.

[00:04:42] - Claire Haidar
Amazing, I really like that, which leads directly to the second question that I want us to dive into around measuring that which you've already alluded to. But, Doug, I'm going to let you take over the question because it just so perfectly segues there.

[00:04:59] - Doug Foulkes
How do you measure the collaboration between individuals, between teams, and obviously even within companies.

[00:05:06] - Claire Haidar
Before you dive into the answer, I want to give a little bit of context as to why I feel this question is so important and why I wanted to have it right at the beginning of the conversation with you is, collaboration is one of those buzzwords that just flippantly gets thrown around, do you know what I mean? It is actually so critical particularly to a world where work is predominantly digital, like collaboration is actually the make or break in the successful outcomes of many teams. It really is something that people leaders, team leaders need to be focused on. But I don't think, and this is where you may need to educate us because you're an expert in this area is, I don't really believe that there are two measurements out there around how do you measure the effectiveness of a team's collaboration.

[00:05:56] - Lisette Sutherland
Yeah, and I have interviewed on my podcast a number of tools that claim that they can measure collaboration through artificial intelligence by going out and seeing how people are interacting with each other online and how much are they talking to each other and all these things. But talking to each other is not collaboration. There's a real difference, right. Just because people are not talking doesn't mean that that is a measure of collaboration. It's one of the many measures. One of my favorite ways in terms of measuring collaboration is one the obvious answer for remote teams is we have to go from being time based to being results based.

[00:06:34] - Lisette Sutherland
Then the obvious question comes up on how do we measure our results? How do we measure our own productivity? How do we measure the productivity of the team especially when there's no clear ways of measuring? It's like if you're doing customer happiness, anyway, I can give a lot of examples, but there are a number of places we can start. My favorite place to start is Management 3.0. I read about they created a scoreboard index. What that is is that each team creates their own set of metrics that they feel are important to measure.

[00:07:06] - Lisette Sutherland
There is no perfect set of measurements. What I know from doing this myself in my own business and on my own things is that metrics change a lot over time and there needs to be somebody to hold people accountable. I always feel it doesn't really matter what you're measuring as long as the team feels that it's useful in terms of how it projects results and that you're constantly being held accountable for the metrics that you're changing, and framing it, of course, as experiments 'cause we're trying to learn from these metrics and these measurements, it goes into a lot of things.

[00:07:40] - Lisette Sutherland
The long answer is I don't really know how you specifically measure collaboration objectively, though I know subjectively there's lots of different ways. Like the Spotify Health model was a way of sort of measuring collaboration I think in the beginning. OKRs could be a good example of ways of measuring collaboration. But I don't know that we want to measure collaboration per se, but we want to measure more results, like are we achieving the goals?

[00:08:07] - Claire Haidar
Are we achieving the goals? I love that. I think that's something really important that we should highlight is because a lot of companies particularly as they're making the shift into a more and more digital landscape for work, tend to get focused on the nuances of what makes work happen and are losing the big picture on the results. Ultimately we can't lose the big picture on the results 'cause it's about the results. It doesn't matter if you meet 100 times or 2 times, if you're achieving the result you're doing something right in the 2 meetings or the 100 meetings, and that's where you need to find the nuance. I love the fact that you've differentiated those two things.

[00:08:45] - Lisette Sutherland
Well, it's a tough question to answer. When I was thinking about, well, how do I measure my own productivity? How do I know as a solopreneur myself if I've had a successful week or not? For any team to answer that question, one, it's so specific to the team that I don't feel like you could have this global scoreboard index that everybody could use to measure themselves. The team really has to come up with what's actually important, and it changes over time, that's what makes it so hard.

[00:09:17] - Claire Haidar
I can share personally what we do inside WNDYR is we adhere to, I don't know if you're familiar with Patrick Lencioni's work. His book, The Advantage, is essentially what we use as our framework within the company to operate the company at a very simplified level. I don't in any way want to downgrade the complexity of what he's laid out because it is a very full framework. But essentially he states, if you're not achieving your results, what you set out as your goals, you're not an effective company. You know what I mean? You can have the greatest collaboration, you can have the greatest culture, but if you're not achieving what you set out to achieve, you're not effective.

[00:09:58] - Lisette Sutherland
Yeah. I mean, my team really likes each other, but at the end of the year if we don't make enough money then we can't be a team anymore.

[00:10:06] - Claire Haidar
Exactly, yeah. That's how we define it within WNDYR, and we make sure that every incoming employee within WNDYR understands that's the framework that we follow. But there's a billion companies out there and every company has their own framework that they follow in terms of what those results look like.

[00:10:26] - Lisette Sutherland
Yeah. Really the best one that I found personally for myself in terms of looking at all the different ones, 'cause a lot of them are complicated or there's a lot of overhead in setting up all these measuring collaboration or measuring results. The one that I really like the most is the Management 3.0 scoreboard index, because it's got some global rules for setting up metrics that I think really makes sense for any team.

[00:10:49] - Doug Foulkes
Just thinking from my side, my own company is very small, it's me. By definition, collaboration also is dependent in some way on the size of the team or the company. If there's any three of you got to communicate to each other, your collaboration in principle should be easier than if you have a team of 200 people.

[00:11:10] - Lisette Sutherland
Yeah, scaling.

[00:11:11] - Doug Foulkes
Would that change the diagnostics that you would use to measure your productivity?

[00:11:16] - Lisette Sutherland
I would say 100%. I mean, it's a different team. You're measuring for different things.

[00:11:23] - Claire Haidar
Very quickly, before we move on, Lisette, can I ask you to talk about the Spotify measurement that you alluded to? I've actually never heard of that before.

[00:11:34] - Lisette Sutherland
Spotify Health Check model that I'm referencing and that actually if you Google Spotify Health Check, you'll come up with a graphic. Basically what they had, is they had a graphic that listed in columns all the different teams, they called them squads at the time 'cause they were doing this whole squad thing, so they have all the different squads listed across in the columns. Then along the y-axis they have all the different categories for job quality, job satisfaction, how the team is doing, are we achieving.

[00:12:02] - Lisette Sutherland
They had created a visual for how each team rated itself. In this one graphic you could see 10 different teams across 10 different categories how they rated themselves this week compared to how they rated themselves last week. In one graphic it showed everything. Once we have data it's so powerful to visualize what that looks like for people because data tells the story and when we can tell that story in pictures you get a lot more alignment around that.

[00:12:31] - Lisette Sutherland
The Spotify Health Check model, it was not that it's the best model out there and even Spotify says our model is not for everybody, it's just our model. But still I was so impressed with how much information that one graphic portrayed and how useful it was.

[00:12:46] - Doug Foulkes
That brings us to the end of the first part of our conversation with collaboration expert, Lisette Sutherland. Now that you understand what collaboration really is make sure to catch the next two parts of this conversation on Spotify, Google or Apple Podcasts or on WNDYR's website, wndyr.com. From Claire and myself, we'll see you soon.

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