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Business - Written by 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:

  1. Highly engaged, committed participants
  2. Trust-based relationships
  3. Prevalence of networking opportunities
  4. Collaborative hiring, development, and promotion practices
  5. Organizational philosophy supporting “community of adults”
  6. Leaders with both task- and relationship-management skills
  7. Executive role models for collaboration
  8. Productive and efficient behaviors and processes
  9. Well-defined individual roles and responsibilities
  10. 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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Brian Magierski
Jun 28, 2009 21:16

Tammy – refreshing post … nice to see that we are evolving our nomenclature when it comes to talent from the industrial/manufacturing mindset … glad you are leading the charge with us at nGenera. I recall the days of ‘skills inventories’, essentially treating people as inventory or inanimate objects!

You make a compelling statement of how challenging it is for large enterprises to achieve a true collaborative management capability, while providing a solid research-backed roadmap for what is necessary to enable it.

links for 2009-06-29 | Brian Magierski
Jun 29, 2009 19:03

[...] Wikinomics» Blog Archive » Do You Have the Collaborative Capacity You Need? (tags: collaboration CEM nGenera tammyerickson enterprise2.0) Share and Enjoy: [...]

Miguel Ángel Morkin
Jul 3, 2009 0:45

Very interesting post, Tammy. I´ll share it with the people of my company!

Jul 7, 2009 4:34

[...] que generen una forma de trabajar más colaborativa. En el artículo Do You Have the Collaborative Capacity You Need?, Erickson habla de las características que debe tener cualquier organización de [...]

Wikinomics» Blog Archive » Apple and the Rise of Competitive Business Platforms – What Other Companies Must Know
Aug 10, 2009 14:00

[...] must do to change and embrace the rise of business platforms, the power of business platforms in Collaborative Enterprise Management, and the role that business platforms play in continuous business [...]

Benito Castro
Aug 20, 2009 8:30

From Spain (Sevilla). Thank you very much. Nice and inteligent post. I think it is placed on the basis of the new momentum we are living as a human beings who are evolving to a different technological and productive context. I´ll be interested in all stuff you publish.

Las ideas valen poco en Internet
Aug 24, 2009 3:38

[...] El panorama tiene que cambiar mucho a este respecto porque las herramientas que estamos creando exigen colaboración, pues si no sería como usar el televisor para poner un muñeco en lo alto con la intención de que nos agrade a la vista. No existe nada más ridículo que intentar capar las posibilidades de una tecnología por miedos, costumbres, falta de espíritu innovador… y además argumentar después que ‘como se ha hecho toda la vida es como hay que seguir haciéndolo’. Caca de la vaca. Me llama la atención en este sentido un artículo de una señora llamada Tammy Erickson en el blog de Wikinomics, que nos ayuda a saber cómo estimular l…. [...]

Enterprise 2.0 San Francisco 2009 – Opening Keynotes | SAP Web 2.0
Nov 3, 2009 14:02

[...] nGenera’s research shows there are ten behaviors that enable collaborative capacity: [...]

Dan Bevarly
Dec 8, 2009 14:48

Tammy – I found this link in a blog post at govloop.com. I enjoyed reading it and found it useful in helping evaluate an organization’s “processes and practices, the leadership skills and the relationships” needed for successful collaboration. The other element for review and analysis is the structure: how the organization will deliver its collaborative processes and practices. I have found this component suffering or missing in some organizations (especially government agencies) that prevents meaningful collaboration to take place. Thanks again for a very thoughtful post.

Ken Boggs
Jan 13, 2010 13:03

I have experience in implementing in business a collaborative self-managing team. What I learned is in my book “Getting the Most Out of Teams” but the book only covers how to measure and train.

I am now researching why folks are drawn to this approach. For that matter, in my experience, when non-management folks find out that such an approach is being used, they clamor to be a part of it — after their disbelief is resolved.

The US cultural emphasis on the unique value of the individual and competition works against people having any experience, training, or hope that this approach will even work.

My current interests are to identify the evolutionary benefit of this approach and identify how to explain it to those still stuck in the disbelief stage.

I love interaction.



Measuring collaboration: Lessons from Shane Battier and the NBA « Not Another Framework
Oct 12, 2010 22:10

[...] individual? If it’s all based on team performance, what incentives can you use to drive the discretionary efforts of [...]

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