Business - Written by Tammy Erickson on Sunday, June 28, 2009 19:20 - 11 Comments
Do You Have the Collaborative Capacity You Need?
Collaboration is a discretionary activity. People have to want to share ideas and work together. It can be catalyzed, but it can’t be mandated – and, to that extent, it requires re-thinking many of our organizational assumptions and leadership practices.
Many of our ideas about organizations and leaders were formed at a time when the primary operational challenge was one of getting people to perform tasks consistently and reliably. We leveraged best practices to achieve a uniform approach. We required that everyone be present in the same place and time, in some cases to get the work done, but at a minimum to allow us to gauge performance by watching in-process activities.
But more and more of the work that differentiates our businesses today depends on divergent or creative activities. Our challenge is one of creating environments that encourage people to become engaged, to take initiative, invest discretionary effort in a wide variety of collaborative activities, and, as a result, develop new approaches and ideas, provide extraordinary customer service, or ramp productivity. Think of this challenge as one of setting the stage, creating an environment that engages players from multiple constituencies. It is a “pull” rather than “push” approach to achieving business results.
Does your organization have the processes and practices, the leadership skills and the relationships among participants that you’ll need? Do you have the capacity to collaborate?
Over the last several years, our research has identified the characteristics of organizations that are successful at collaborative activity. With extensive data from teams from around the world, we identified ten factors that are highly correlated with successful collaboration:
- Highly engaged, committed participants
- Trust-based relationships
- Prevalence of networking opportunities
- Collaborative hiring, development, and promotion practices
- Organizational philosophy supporting “community of adults”
- Leaders with both task- and relationship-management skills
- Executive role models for collaboration
- Productive and efficient behaviors and processes
- Well-defined individual roles and responsibilities
- Important, challenging tasks
Investing in these ten enabling factors builds an organization’s Collaborative Capacity – its ability and willingness to share information, ideas and insights productively. Conversely, productive collaboration is unlikely to occur is these factors are not in place. A journey to leverage the benefits of collaboration in your business must begin with assessing and, as necessary, building your organization’s Collaborative Capacity.
Think of this like beginning a manufacturing business. One fundamental question you would face is whether you have the right manufacturing capacity. Do you have the right facility? Is it well-maintained? Do you have the right permits and disposal mechanisms in place? And so on. These questions would be the foundation required before you begin any specific manufacturing process.
Or, think of it like assessing the talent in your firm. Most of you probably do an annual review of your workforce, asking: Do we have enough people to deliver? Do they have the right skills and training? Are they engaged?
Assessing your Collaborative Capacity is similar to these two analogies. Do you have the beliefs, processes, behaviors – the things our well-grounded research has shown to have a statistically valid correlation to collaboration – in place as a foundation upon which to build?
In upcoming posts, I’ll share ways you can assess your organization’s Collaborative Capacity and some of the approaches successful companies are using to enhance these factors in their organizations.
Becoming a Collaborative Enterprise won’t just happen. Many of today’s processes and practices – and the culture within many organizations – are not ready to reap the benefits that the new collaboration can provide. The ability to collaborate can be a powerful competitive advantage – but doing it successfully requires the right organizational context.
If you’re interested in learning more about tools to assess or build your organization’s Collaborative Capacity, please let us know.
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