Collaboration has been a recent addition to my vocabulary. I have always done it in varying ways and have encouraged other teams, that I have worked with, to do it also however, in property management, we don’t call it collaboration. Let me pitch this example to you; I go out to do a routine inspection and, for some weird reason, the tenant has removed the wall between the garage and the fourth bedroom, in a home that is less than 12 months old. I’m so taken back, I quickly finish the routine inspection, take the relevant photos and, bewildered, I return to the office. On my return, I begin to go around the office one-by-one and ask my colleagues what I should do. This is collaboration. Let’s look at how we can formalise this and introduce collaboration into the office for structured knowledge sharing and efficient problem solving.
Collaboration, within property management, can be seen as a tool of efficiency for an agency. It does however, start with culture and end in process. For collaboration to be successful the team needs to have a culture of both sharing and learning.
I have been into many agencies where the property managers work hard, but they all have their heads down doing their own thing. Between them, they have years of property management knowledge. What if they were encouraged to openly share this knowledge amongst their colleagues. It is definitely a two way street though. A knowledge culture not only embraces sharing but also embraces the learning experience that comes from that. In a knowledge culture, sometimes you have things to share and sometime you need to learn.
Another component of the knowledge culture is to accept that things don’t always go as planned. The agency needs to encourage openness when it comes to mistakes. Use every mistake that the agency makes as a learning experience. Be open about the mistake and who was involved and discuss, as a team, what can be done better next to avoid this from happening. Hiding the mistake under the rug doesn’t do anyone any favours. This also applies to wins. When something goes right in the agency and you have a win, this should also be a learning experience.
The collaboration part of the learning culture is what pulls it all together. Have a way in which the team can communicate this knowledge sharing, both formal and informal. The Halo community is a great informal way of doing this. You are able to set up your own office streams to communicate and share knowledge in a more efficient way. While going one-by-one around the office can be effective, it makes one individual the focal point. They receive feedback from the team but the team are siloed from each other, restricting the learning and problem solving experience. Having a tool that allows everyone to share, together online, allows the entire agency to both contribute to the problem, and learn from the experience. Halo also allows you to contribute and learn from entire community streams, as well as your own agency, giving a much broader knowledge base to share and learn from.
A more formal approach is to encourage the team to openly share their experiences, is at the weekly team meetings. Use the it as a training tool or case study to review the event, share ideas and learn from the experience. This will arm the rest of the office with the right information should they face a similar problem in the future. If need be, put action points in place to amend procedures or add amendments to policies to promote any changes needed to support this.
Collaboration has been done by many large corporate businesses around the world. As property management agencies, learning to embrace this process is only going to strengthen both our team and the agency.