Collaboration is certainly a hot topic in the market, media and literature. A Forbes article concluded: “The fact is there is nothing more important to leadership and organizational success than collaboration. It exponentially increases the odds of amazing things happening”.
And there are many examples out there that support this. In an IBM study of 765 CEOs 75% said that collaboration is very important to their innovation efforts, but only half felt that they practiced collaboration to a large extent. A recent Harvard Business Review article cited a global law firm that collaborated effectively internally instead of working in “product” silos and their revenues increased by over 4x as a result of selling integrated services. An 11 year study of companies by Kotter and Heskett concluded that the more collaborative companies increased net profits by 755% more than the other more adversarial companies over that time period. And on the negative side there are numerous examples of companies that have failed by working in non-collaborative silos.
At the same time there is an increasing number of articles about the negative results of getting collaboration wrong. Collaboration has become such a “buzzword” that there are examples of teams being forced to sit in long cross-divisional meetings, being told to “collaborate with more stakeholders” seemingly just for the sake of “collaboration”.
So, how is effective collaboration achieved? Well, the consensus put in simple terms seems to be that effective collaboration requires two elements:
- Specific and clear shared goals and vision – supported by the appropriate organizational structure and systems. Any business works better when its employees, teams, divisions share ideas and resources to pursue a common goal. But this is easier to say than implement because to be successful in today’s organizations requires aligning the potentially competing commitments of
– high performing and expert individual teams with their own goals and deadlines, and
– an overall “joining up” and linking together of all the parts at the organization level,
- Specific collaborative skills training – because collaboration is very much a learnt skill set including mindset, soft skills and toolboxes – rather than a “let’s see what happens when we come together” approach.
At CONCHIUS we are addressing the challenge of creating effective collaboration by partnering in Asia with the world leading “Radical Collaboration” Program – developed by Judge Jim Tamm, author of the book with the same name. The approach is founded on 30 years of research and is now used by organizations such as NASA, Harvard University, Stockholm School of Economics and Fortune 500 companies. The Program focuses on the 5 core collaboration skills that individuals and teams need to build health and effective collaboration with each other.
To quote a recent Harvard Business Review article: “ So yes, let’s encourage people to get better at collaboration, and train them in it. But let’s also design organizations that make it energizing and fun, not forced”.