This spring companies from coast to coast are continuing to centralize and standardize many different systems and processes. As a result, lots and lots of people are having to collaborate to solve problems. Some are even calling these new people “their partners.”
First, what is collaboration? According to the dictionary, it means “to work with another person to achieve or do something.” But from experience, I think of collaboration first as a mindset, i.e. a way of thinking. If it is a mindset, then we need to know WHY we need to collaborate. What are the risks of collaboration vs. not collaborating?
Next, if it is a mindset, then we need to know WHAT to do.This would assume that there is an end goal and that there is some way to measure progress toward this end goal.
Furthermore, if it is a mindset, then we also need to know HOW to do it. This, to a degree, assumes we are competent is doing the behaviors related to collaboration. Yet underneath all of this collaboration is a recognition that being collaborative means you have to give up control. In specific, you may not be able to control all the details, other people, and even the outcome in certain situations.
Second, collaboration is a set of behaviors, i.e. a way of working with others. Here are the behaviors that make up collaboration:
- teamwork behaviors as in people who work well together. The key element is to build personal and strategic trust.
- communication behaviors as in people who can communicate clearly and create clarity. The key element is to have have clarity first before communicating.
- problem solving behaviors as in people who can diagnosis the problem and then solve it. The key element is to know the difference between technical, adaptive and crisis based problems.
- decision-making behaviors as in people who can think through impact and precedent. The key element is to not suffer from either strategic or contextual blindness.
- goal setting behaviors as in people who can create SMART goals. The key element here is to understand alignment with the strategic nexus.
- working with data or metrics to monitor progress as in people who can measure their progress. The key element is to understand the difference between operational excellence and organizational success.
In short, collaboration is a complex set of behaviors. And the best leaders focus people on making sure OUR results do not get trumped by MY results. For in the world of collaboration, WE is more important than I.