What’s the problem with collaboration on your team?
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Effective collaboration drives revenue and customer satisfaction and acts as a buffer against economic downturn. But it’s a means to an end that, unless skillfully managed, can cost you and your teams precious resources without achieving its intended results.
“While there are many feel-good arguments in favor of collaboration, the real justification for effective collaboration (…) can be found in the bottom line,” explains Heidi K. Gardner in her forthcoming book Smart Collaboration. Greatly facilitated by digital technologies, collaboration can be defined as the integration of different expertise and resources to solve greater, more complex problems. As the need for collaboration continues to grow – along with the size and complexity of the problems that organizations face – the question of how to manage it becomes more urgent. Drivers like individual accountability and competition simply do not function in collaboration in the same way that they do when people execute tasks individually, and so team leaders must figure out new ways to ensure successful results. For example, you can’t simply order people to contribute to a collaborative process and expect results; people need to feel intrinsically motivated to contribute, thanks to drivers like shared vision. In Disciplined Collaboration, expert Emmanuel Gobillot sets out to explain how to lead collaboration in a way that better reconciles its benefits with other performance drivers like, notably, individual accountability and competition. He codifies his solution into four successive steps, which each surmount specific fears around potential costs, or losses, associated with collaboration. In other words, Gobillot argues that overcoming the (often misguided) fears around collaboration is essential to managing its costs and reaping its benefits more effectively.Step 1: Manage fear of loss to individual value
“The world of work is a world of differentiation,” notes Gobillot, who explains that this straightforward business principle is at the root of the fear that sharing skills, knowledge, and other individual resources will diminish differentiated value. Gobillot argues, however, that this fear results from an overly narrow definition of value and success. In fact, as the bottom line shows, when managed with discipline, collaboration doesn’t erode value: it amplifies it. Surmounting this fear starts with clearly identifying and communicating the “unique value” that each individual party brings to the collaboration and how the collaboration aims to amplify it. You can help your people develop their ability to “articulate and share the value they bring,” which should make them feel less protective of it (with the added benefit of increasing their capacity to draw others towards them in collaboration).Step 2: Manage fear of loss of quality
This step is about managing a fear that is both “insidious and real”: the fear of loss of quality of results. In collaboration, sharing the work with others erodes your control over the outcomes, which creates a spiral of anxiety “within everyone, every day, in every organization.” People wonder: Will my collaborators understand the issues as well as I do? Will they be as dedicated as I am? “In other words,” writes Gobillot, “does qualify suffer when others get involved?”
To read the article in full:
Based on Disciplined Collaboration: 4 Steps to Collaborative Success by Emmanuel Gobillot (Urbane Publications, May 2016) and an interview with Beatrix PRAECEPTOR, Procurement Director, Mondi Europe & International, Vienna, Austria (September 2016).