Business - Written by Naumi Haque on Tuesday, November 11, 2008 15:23 - 4 Comments
Collaboration in recessionary times
There’s an ongoing discussion taking place in the office about the implications of a recession on collaboration in the enterprise. Two schools of thought are emerging:
- Collaboration will help us do more with less. The idea is that collaboration can lead to greater efficiencies and reduce the amount of internal resources required for projects. Collaboration leads to better information which helps make better decisions in terms of how to allocate resources. Collaboration also takes advantage of prosumers and social networks where individuals can help co-innovate with companies at a lower cost than using exclusively internal resources. There’s an assumption underlying this scenario that there’s some surplus capacity in the economy because a) companies are cutting back on projects, but not necessarily eliminating all of the corresponding staff, and b) those employees that are cut will be available for contract work and targeted initiatives. In fact, this may even be a good time to stock up on promising young talent. The pro-collaboration folks suggest that collaboration can lead to new growth opportunities that will help companies differentiate themselves in difficult times. Extra cycle times may also be directed at innovation and R&D; “there’s a lot things you can do during rainy days” and building a pipeline of products and services may be one of them.
- There’s no time for collaboration; doing more with less means we’ve got to hunker down. With an economic downturn companies will not be willing to appoint resources to collaborative projects. Since the return on investment of collaborative initiatives is not always apparent, employees will also not be willing to allocate their time on activities that are not measured in performance reviews or not seen as directly contributing to the bottom line. From an employee perspective, it may make sense to hoard knowledge in tough times and be less collaborative in order to make yourself indispensable (i.e. prevent being eliminated). The “hunkering down” managers believe that collaboration is risky and can lead to wasted resources on dead-end projects. Moreover, they frown upon self-organizing behavior; suggesting that it will result in unfocused initiatives. It’s time to run a tight ship and that means scrutinizing all discretionary pursuits, focusing on internal resources, cutting salary expenses where possible, and getting remaining salaried employees to shoulder the extra weight.
Two opinions; two very different strategies. What do you think?
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