Power of Collaboration
important way that you can increase your organization's capacity
to achieve its goals is through collaboration--within your organization,
between yours and others within your company, and across corporate
Nature Of Things Today Is That They Are Very
has increased dramatically and significantly in just the past ten
years, and its effects are compounded. Problems, opportunities
for innovation, products, and solutions are so complex that they
can no longer be solved, invented, or designed by one person working
alone or by completing pieces separately and then integrating them
later. The various parts or aspects of complex solutions must be
developed in relationship to each other from the outset or else
the pieces will not fit or work together, and why they won't work
will not be readily apparent until later--and possibly when it's
too late or too costly to solve the problem. It is frequently the
failure to develop integrated solutions and the resulting need to
fix or redesign them that creates or contributes to time-to-market
problems, cost overruns, and field failure.
Is The Universal Condition.
interdependence requires that we be able to work cooperatively and
in conjunction with others who have relevant and complimentary
knowledge or skills to bring to bear on a particular problem, usually
one in which the participants have a shared interest. This way of
working is collaboration, and we must find ways to enable it if
we want to leverage the ideas and creativity of many to address
complex issues. It's worth noting that collaboration is as much
an orientation or way of being as it is a way of working. "Collaborating"
only when it serves our own interest does little to build the trust
or solid relationships that are required for successful interdependent
and collaborative initiatives. We need to understand interdependence
as an ongoing condition that supports the needs of the parties over
time, not just when it's convenient.
Doesn't Happen By Accident. The capacity and structures that enable
collaboration within and across organization boundaries must be
designed into the infrastructure and culture of the company.
companies have been set up or evolved in ways that are more likely
to promote and reward individual action rather than collaboration.
Few corporate strategies can be successfully executed without collaborative
activity. But the existing structure, rewards, and processes frequently
inhibit collaboration, and employees perceive it to be to their
disadvantage in terms of both formal and informal rewards and recognition.
Steep hierarchies frequently require permission seeking while discouraging
initiative taking, thus inhibiting collaborative behavior. Senior
managers often fail to understand why employees don't, won't, or
are unable to work more collaboratively, despite verbal encouragement
to do so. If we remember that form follows function, not the other
way around, then we can move to designing organizations that support
necessary behaviors and interactions.
research with consistent results has revealed the structures and
conditions that promote and enable successful collaboration:
significant, well-understood objectives, outcomes, or goals that
none can accomplish alone
to shared spaces, tools, processes, and methods that promote interaction
that produces synergistic, whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts
creativity, innovation, and results
that supports collaborative activities and behavior, including
access to required resources; active sponsorship; culture, norms,
values, and rewards that are congruent
to experiment without early limitations or constraints to creativity
and the need to justify or commit prematurely to outcomes or solutions,
i.e. the expectation and opportunity to take risks appropriate
to the objective.
who bring the right mix of competencies, skills, experiences for
the opportunity and who can and will work in respectful and trusting
Thoughts On Teams and Three Reasons Why Teams Fail
the good news: Research has shown, and you would no doubt agree,
that high-performance teams are one of the best structures for
collaborative work. So if interdependency exists and collaboration
is required, form a team right?? Well, not so fast: The paradox
here is that even though teams may be the best structure for collaborative
work, forming a team doesn't necessarily produce collaborative results.
# 1: Overuse and underdifferentiation
operative words here are high-performance. At one time, "team"
and "collaboration" were virtually synonymous. But now
that teams have become increasingly popular and prolific, teams
get formed for almost any purpose--or worse yet, for no clear purpose--and
it's become common to call almost any group or staff a "team."
that are high performing and truly successful fit a certain description
and embody specific characteristics. These definitions and characteristics
have been widely and consistently researched, and clear links
have been established between the characteristics of the team and
the results they achieve. It's under these conditions that teams
will achieve results that are consistent with true collaboration,
a whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts effect that produces
an extraordinary innovation or outcome.
Team Essentials Model depicts the ingredients of a successful
team, the necessary but not sufficient foundation on which high-performance
Without the characteristics and the results, "team" is
just another generic, overused term that's lost its meaning. In
fact, you could say it's given teams a bad name.
# 2: The Team Ghetto and Other Structural Errors
they have become the common and prescribed thing to do, teams
get formed and introduced into structures and organizations that
do not provide the conditions that are required for them to be successful.
The existence of the team does not insure that collaboration will
occur or that the team will achieve a desired result. They can't
be "poofed" into existence (i.e. told, "now you're
a team, go do the right thing"). No team will be empowered
in a culture or environment that's disempowering. And even Rumplestilskin
can't save a team without resources!
teams at the bottom of or randomly throughout an organization that's
fundamentally a steep hierarchy is a recipe for the teams' failure
or worse. We call this a Team Ghetto. Your teams need to
have certain freedoms, opportunities, and areas of autonomy: to
experiment and risk; to determine how they'll work together, interface
with key stakeholders, make decisions, structure the project, and
move forward; to be trusted that as a result of their collective
competence and wisdom, synergy will occur. If they are expected,
either explicitly by the management or sponsor group and/or implicitly
by the organization's culture and norms, to seek permission or approval
at every turn, then their creativity, energy, and impact will be
limited, or extinguished. Just the amount of time it takes to run
ideas or requests up through the multiple and parallel levels of
a hierarchy to have a decision made by a staff group higher up,
and then back down again creates endless opportunities for distortion
and misunderstanding, in addition the wasted time and energy. (Please
note: we're not talking here about the importance of keeping sponsors
informed or freedom from accountability).
# 3: The Mushroom Effect
can produce magical results, and members may describe the experience
of being part of an extraordinary team as magical, but the bottom
line is that successful, high-performing teams don't happen by
order to create the essentials that enable a team to flourish, you
must make an investment in its development. Initial startup
as well as ongoing development activities are required. Our experience
shows that for maximum effectiveness, these activities are best
done in as carefully designed and facilitated event in which members
interact with each other, begin working as a team and making key
decisions about their project, and start building critical relationships
right from the start. We can make sure that they get off to a
good start; that they are focused and energized right from the beginning.
All too often teams are not well launched, a costly error from which
some teams never recover.
teams regularly devote time to their maintenance by assessing their
processes, effectiveness, and progress. They are honest with
each other about what's working and not working, and they make real
time modifications when necessary. They don't wait for a crisis
or for someone else to tell them that there's a problem. These periodic
check-ins ensure that the essential ingredient of trust continues
to build and that members attend to basic group processes.
What You Want And Need Is Increased Collaboration Within Your Organization
And With Others, it's essential that you pay attention to and
invest in an organization design, infrastructure, and culture that
supports, encourages, and enables this way of working and that you
also invest in the team and its development.
Resources on the Power of Collaboration
In Teams: And Why It Matters
Learning For Real World Experience
Developing Virtual and GDTs in Cyberspace
They Said It Couldn't Be Done
Doing Teams with Knowledge Workers
The "Peace Corps"
Model of OD
1 - Virtual and Geographically Dispersed Teams
4 - Team Startup
Issue 5 - Trust In Teams--And
Why It Matters
Issue 9 - Trends in Team Development
- What to Do With Large Teams