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Collaboration Redefined by Phil Ventresca, MBA

After reading, “Smart Collaboration” by Heidi K. Gardner (and being challenged to think about the concepts she discussed by a great friend and scholar, Lydia Segal), the following thoughts came to mind to provoke further conversation around the concept.

The concept of collaboration has always been a paramount aspect of my personal and professional foundation.  In fact, much of the intellectual property, solutions and best practices we employ and deploy at Advanced Management Services, Inc., (AMS) spawn from the collaborative efforts of cross-functional teams.  AMS is a global provider of management solutions through the deployment of consulting and training in four key practice areas; project management, business analysis, professional development and operational performance.

As noted in “Smart Collaboration”, the timeliness and application of cross-functional contributors can make the difference between a good solution and a transformational one.  The consulting market is extremely competitive and to thrive, the firm must generate innovative and transformational solutions for clients.  However, the essence of this competitive advantage is critical in all industries and the concept of collaboration can be just as effective.   The domains of innovation, idea generation, strategic thinking, problem solving and new product development are only some of the areas (within any business or industry) that can benefit from collaboration.

Over a 23-year history at AMS we have served Fortune 100, Global 2000 and Government Agencies all seeking one thing: a competitive advantage to advance market position, operational excellence or both.  During this journey, I have learned some valuable lessons about the practical application of collaborative relationships:

The case to collaborate:

Collaboration provides a wider spectrum of considerations around any topic while promoting diversity in global organizations with wide-reaching and distributed workforces.

When to collaborate:

The best time to collaborate is during the early business cycle and at high-impact milestones.

When not to collaborate:

During moments when the execution plan is critical and a well-designed and validated action plan is mission critical.

Why to collaborate:

To advance diverse thinking, which will lead to a wider spectrum of intellectual opportunity.

Who to collaborate with:

Cross-functional teams, end-users, market representatives, thought-leaders and at times, even competitors.

How to collaborate:

In a fair and non-threatening environment which will not only support, but promote open thinking against a predetermined and visible goal.

What to expect when you collaborate:

Results. Always collaborate to an “end” and even though you can’t see the outcome, you must expect one or the process can become daunting.

The upside to collaboration far outweighs the risk of creating bureaucracy. That said, it needs to be managed as part of the organization’s culture. Leadership must embrace the interphase of collaboration and at the same time maintain a results oriented trajectory.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Does your organizational culture support team over self?
  2. Have you integrated the concept of collaboration in the culture?
  3. Does your talent pool see benefit from collaboration as a natural flow?
  4. Are you prepared to feel vulnerability through transparency?
  5. Have you defined areas and/or topics that compliance, regulatory or trade secrets may constrict collaboration?
  6. Have you established “ground rules” for meetings with collaboration?
  7. Have you considered the best model of “cross-functional” interaction?
  8. Have you focused collaborative efforts on agility and results, not more process?
  9. Have you provided education and orientation to the practical application of collaboration?
  10. Does collaboration feed into your high-performance team/culture model.

In today’s world of distributed work teams, highly diverse cultures and the need for market readiness, there has never been a better time to use the “tool” of collaboration. The real challenge arises in the question; are you and your organization structured to capitalize on the benefits?

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