Research Articles

Collaboration Redefined

Collaboration Redefined took on new meaning for me after reading, “Smart Collaboration” by Heidi K. Gardner, in regards to the application of collaboration. 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.

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.

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 of a task is critical and collaboration is imbedded in the plan itself.  (Just Do It, moment).

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?

Written by Phil Ventresca, M.B.A.

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