Effective Collaboration: Why it’s all About the People
Mike France, co-founder of Christopher Ward, talks up the importance of effective collaboration within the workplace.
Since Christopher Ward launched in 2004, effective collaboration has always been at the heart of our work at Christopher Ward – but especially so in the last few months, with the design and launch of our C9 Malvern 595 model.
Being just 5.95mm tall, the version is one of the trimmest timepieces on the market and required extensive collaboration, both internally and with our external partners, to produce.
Whilst the difference between this and a watch over 6mm tall may not sound a lot, in the world of watchmaking a millimetre can equate to a mile; just the tiniest design or manufacturing flaw (we’re talking tenths of a millimetre), and the entire function of the piece can be compromised.
Without effective collaboration (between both our management and designers, and external manufactures and suppliers) the 595 project could never have got off the ground. Quite simply, everyone had to be working in tandem for the vision to come together.
What we’ve learnt along the way is that for any collaborative project to succeed, it is the people involved who hold the key to success. Drilling down further, we’ve identified that any collaborative group must be equipped with three specific traits: positivity, strong communication and the ability to handle pressure.
When the 595 project was first proposed, you could have heard a pin drop! There was a considerable level of initial doubt as we were all moving into new territory. How could we – a relatively small independent watch brand – produce a product with dimensions almost none of the big household names had yet produced?
Yet as we moved forward and got the bit between our teeth, any initial scepticism was dispelled. We challenged each other, convinced ourselves the project was achievable, and at times healthily disagreed. Even at these times of disagreement, a positive, ‘can do’ attitude was always maintained; we set ourselves a target of 5.95mm and refused to budge from it.
It was a remarkable journey to watch – as you saw people with a huge range of skill sets working out physical problems and really pushing each other, never allowing the challenge to overcome them. By maintaining this positive team ethic, we not only succeeded in producing the specific piece, but more widely ensured we can look ahead at future tough challenges with plenty of optimism.
As a business we have a very narrow but deep supply base – one main case supplier, one main dial supplier, one major hand supplier.
These partners have worked with us for many years now and understand what we are trying to do. We see external suppliers as very much part of the Christopher Ward team (once removed, if you like), and we always make sure we select our suppliers with the same diligence as our own people. They too must buy into the philosophy and ethos that you as a business yourself are aspiring too.
The relationships are strong and therefore communication between us, which is imperative in a project such as this, comes naturally. On a project that has very detailed specifications and lots of partners with different skill sets, you have to maintain constant dialogue – advising, constructively critiquing, encouraging, and perhaps most importantly learning. Ultimately greater communication delivers a better bonded team, a more efficient process, and therefore a superior end product.
Thriving under pressure
When you are set a difficult challenge, such as the 595 project, you truly find out the character and ability of people. We know we have a team of talented people, but it is about how that talent is utilised under pressure that counts.
Colleagues are forced to step up to the plate, solve problems and deliver – both on time and on budget. They aren’t just carrying the responsibility of their own part of the project, but really the whole project. After all, it’s only when all those components come together that you realise you have a beast that works.
The ability to solve problems under this pressure is the difference between collaborative projects succeeding and failing, and respect being earnt or not. And we were immensely proud that our team was, in the case of the, able to handle the pressure of the project’s unchartered waters.
None of this would have been possible without the talented individuals involved, and ultimately their positive outlook, drive under pressure and ability to talk to one another. In the end, we were able to produce one of the world’s slimmest mechanical watches – something with a very simple design, but that could be one of our best watches ever.