Picture the scene: you have 10 tabs open on your laptop; you’re frantically rummaging for update emails to input into a spreadsheet; application notifications and meeting reminders are popping up on your screen and mobile phone; and you’re struggling to generate a separate status report for one of the cross-function project teams because they don’t use the same work management software as everyone else.

Sound familiar? Welcome to the world of ‘collaborative chaos’.

Responding to the near endless streams of emails and app notifications across a plethora of communication platforms leaves you feeling like a hamster in a wheel – going nowhere fast. It is hardly surprising then that collaborative chaos has emerged as a major business challenge.

And teams don’t just have to worry about hurdles to internal collaboration – a recent Innovation Benchmark Report from Price Waterhouse Coopers revealed that 61 per cent of companies are collaborating directly with partners, suppliers and customers too.

The result is that organisations are straining under the weight of clusters of unfocused messages in different places – a barrier to efficient collaboration, productivity and the ability to meet deadlines. Indeed, it is a state of affairs that is seriously hampering business agility for enterprises everywhere.

Yet maximising business agility is critical at a time when organisations need to become nimbler in structure, decision-making and increase employee empowerment in the face of increasing economic uncertainty – whether that is due to Brexit, global trade wars or concern about the next downturn.

The challenges of engaging an increasingly dispersed and remote workforce, as well as cross-department and inter-organisation communication, adds to the chaos. Maintaining effective collaboration within and across teams depends on having the approach, structure and tools in place to ensure effective collaboration both within and between organisations – while also enabling business agility.

So what steps can managers, team leaders and a workforce take to harness collaborative chaos?

Establish connected thinking from the start

Collaborative chaos can be caused by silo mentalities and/or dispersed and disconnected workers and teams sending information at each other instead of actually collaborating. It is vital to break down silo mentalities by sharing and agreeing KPIs, tools, workflows, processes and policies with all individuals and teams before you start planning.

Create short-term goals and start delivering

Establishing clear and achievable objectives keeps priorities visible and provides a barrier to project fatigue by ensuring that focus on big, distant long-term goals is not the only aim in sight. By breaking down tasks into more manageable chunks, teams are more likely to work together effectively and celebrate those important wins.

Ensure you are nimble and quick

Plan thoroughly but don’t be afraid to change plans as new needs arise and additional information becomes available. Priorities can change quickly, and teams need the ability – and enabling technology – to respond rapidly. Updating on progress as often as possible can be critical in ensuring teams stay on track and quickly adjust when and where necessary.

Have a clear vision and communicate it well

Everyone across an enterprise should know what the vision is, and their role in bringing it to life. They should also have the ability to contribute to that vision as it evolves, through a cloud based-collaborative platform that fits within the organisation’s culture, supports the type of input and business agility required today.

Employ the right technology tools

Good project and work management platforms unite teams and provide a central repository for all information related to the project. They also enable productive collaboration, automatically keeping all relevant communications together and in context. For instance, enabling teams to edit in real time and on-demand on one document cuts out the chaos associated with sharing and comparing multiple drafts. The upshot is having the right cloud-based platform – such as ours – reduces knowledge gaps, aligns objectives and prevents duplication of work.


Overcoming collaborative chaos is as much about taking the right approach and being set up to succeed as it is about managing change. The result is informed, empowered teams that understand what needs to be done and contribute more effectively to business success.

 David Goulden is the product director at Clarizen, a global leader in cloud-based collaborative work management software. He can be contacted at David.Goulden@clarizen.com.’