Doing Collaboration Badly Is Worse Than Not Doing It At All - SideraWorks


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Lessons learned along the way regarding the ties between collaboration, innovation, and social business. Throughout our workshops and client engagements, what common issues come up in collaboration initiatives? How do you find a common language in regards to how an organization defines collaboration and innovation? How does social business provide a platform for success in these types of initiatives? What are the barriers typically encountered and how do you articulate the value?

SideraWorks has had to learn some of these lessons the hard way, perhaps this document will aid you in avoiding some of the same issues.

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Doing Collaboration Badly Is Worse Than Not Doing It At All - SideraWorks

  1. 1. Collaboration, Innovation, & Social Business Lessons Learned Along The Way Defining Social Business the ties between
  2. 2. collaboration ‘truths’ There isn’t a clear understanding/agreement amongst the participants as to what collaboration means. There is a lot of confusion on the very definition of collaboration. In a general context that’s fine, but as an organization, particularly one approaching a collaboration initiative, everyone needs to have a common language if they are to communicate effectively. Virtually everyone (often approaching 100% of our respondents) agrees that collaboration is not only valuable but critical to the success of the organization. Yet many aren’t able to articulate that value, or why they should be doing it. Effective collaboration requires a major focus on culture, the deployment and use of technology, and the adoption of process, policy, and governance for positive results. Few companies focus on all three. Which leads us to the next issue. Bad is worse than none –  Morten Hansen points out in his book ‘Collaboration’, that bad collaboration is a waste of time and resources and produces no real gain.  Deciding not to collaborate at all is a better option than bad collaboration. While harsh, it is undeniably true. Confusion with “innovation” –  There is often confusion with the relationship between collaboration and innovation.  By being innovative you aren’t necessarily being collaborative and the reverse is also true.  There are definitely interdependencies between the two, and a collaborative culture certainly breeds innovation more effectively but they are not the same thing. © 2013 SideraWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved. As we run workshops and projects with our clients there are certain issues that occur frequently enough that in hindsight we should have predicted and prepared for. Where collaboration is concerned we’ve provided a few consistent ‘truths’ that we’ve had to learn along the way. *Thanks to Carlos Dominguez for the inspiration of the sequence
  3. 3. what is social business? The principal idea behind social business is to create a business with purpose and meaning. Today, that means responding and adapting to the shifts that are being compelled, in large part, by empowered communities of people and the powerful communication capabilities provided by the social web and technology as a whole. It also means designing an organization that wants to catalyze something larger than itself, a key characteristic of businesses that will not only survive the emerging business landscape, but thrive within it. Combined, those two things require rethinking not just how we work, but why we do what we do, and creating the healthiest conditions we can for collaboration, innovation, and an outstanding organizational culture. © 2013 SideraWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved.
  4. 4. what is collaboration? SideraWorks typically defines collaboration as the practice of working in concert with others (virtually or physically), usually across disciplines and with a diversity of skill sets, to solve a shared problem through collective effort and contribution of expertise. When it’s done right in a workplace environment, collaboration is all about mutual contribution and mutual benefit toward a shared vision as well as just solving shared challenges. Often, we end up with a solution or a new creation we never would have arrived at individually. Everyone puts something in, everyone gets something out, and we’re all left in a better place - smarter, more effective, better prepared, closer to our vision - as a result. © 2013 SideraWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved.
  5. 5. No, not really. But it’s a subtle distinction. When you’re working as a team, you can all be working together for a common outcome or toward a goal. Could even be something as simple as a project deadline or task. The difference between teamwork and collaboration is the value created and derived collectively by the group. In a teamwork scenario, you could all work together to divvy up work, do independent tasks, and arrive at an endpoint or outcome that’s shared by the team. You can all individually contribute something that you know so that the problem gets solved faster. In fact, your value on a team is very much about what you know. but isn’t that just the same thing as teamwork? The problem can be someone else’s entirely, and you could have no stake in the outcome but still function as part of the team. Your contribution doesn’t depend on anyone else’s, and you can be on a team and not necessarily be invested in whether the team achieves what it set out to do. In addition, a team usually has a clear leader, someone accountable for the outcome and responsible for resolving disputes, assigning tasks, making decisions and ultimately delivering a specific solution. © 2013 SideraWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved.
  6. 6. is really about the collective purpose and shared investment of the group itself. Think of it more like an ecosystem than a “task force”. It’s distinct because of the interdependence of the people, the process, and the results. The effort toward a collaborative goal is mutual, but so is the outcome. Everyone contributes and everyone benefits somehow from the collaborative effort. Most often, rather than just contributing a bunch of resources and letting someone else sort through them to come up with a solution, individual collaborators pool their resources and expertise to then create something new that ends up being greater than the sum of the parts. And the value of participation isn’t just in what you know, but in how you connect with others and truly leverage what you know to make something bigger, together. collaboration, on the other hand It’s the result of shared expertise and collective brainpower and dialogue that ends up creating new solutions to problems that lots of people share. Problems they care about solving. In successful collaboration, the collective outcomes are what matter. The group gets all the credit, all take the critique. Collaborators care about the health of the collective as well as their own individual needs, and the results -- for better or for worse -- are owned by everyone and rewarded as such. © 2013 SideraWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved.
  7. 7. articulating value Organizations have reaped the benefits of working in teams for years: it’s efficient, it’s effective, and it can be a lot faster than tackling problems piecemeal. Collaboration, on the other hand, can be messy. It’s not always faster. It’s not always super efficient (at least not in the traditional limited measure of efficiency). It takes cultural change as well as process change. That sounds pretty negative doesn’t it? However, when done well it is incredibly effective. Here are just a few of the proven benefits of collaboration. © 2013 SideraWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved.
  8. 8. faster innovation better access to information and knowledge Beyond simply being more productive, people who collaborate as a matter of practice have better self-esteem, more refined interpersonal skills, feel more creative, and believe that their work has value and impact beyond their day to day tasks. individual purpose © 2013 SideraWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved. Accenture says that 59% of middle managers miss critical information every day because they can’t find it or never see it. Dedicated collaboration helps remove some of the friction in everyday communication and information sharing. In a global market that sees a rapid pace of change, it’s critical to not only stay competitive, but stay ahead of what’s happening in your sector.   IBM interviewed 765 CEOs. Nearly half of them said that collaboration was not only critical to innovation, but that their most significant source of those innovations was collaboration among their employees.
  9. 9. the mobile workforce healthier work culture When Cisco made dedicated cultural and operational investments in collaboration, they saved $691 million and increased productivity 4.9 percent in its 2008 fiscal year. Overall, they’re reporting a 900% return on their investment. improved organizational effectiveness © 2013 SideraWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved. Talent recruitment and retention are critical in this emerging business age. According to the metrics of Trust, Pride, and Enjoyment -- key Great Place To Work® components -- “The degree of pride and levels of authentic connection and camaraderie employees feel with one another are essential components”. Creating opportunities to encourage and reward collaboration can encourage all of the above. By 2015, 1.3 billion people will be part of the mobile workforce. That’s 37.5% of the workforce overall. Collaboration then becomes absolutely essential to operations and keeping the wheels on an evolving business, not just helpful to culture.
  10. 10. what gets in the way? Collaboration and social business, however, isn’t always as smooth and easy as we’d like it to be. Getting individuals to work together can be complex and nuanced in and of itself, and there are a number of factors that can make that even more complicated when dealing with the existing structures of organizations, cultural issues, and the day to day pressures of getting work done. Getting from a traditional culture of “Knowledge is MY power” to one of “Sharing is OUR growth” isn’t simple. Here are some of the common trouble spots. © 2013 SideraWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved.
  11. 11. lack of education no incentives in place When collaboration is considered a luxury instead of an essential part of achieving business goals, it can be shoved to the side. That means it gets passed over for budgets, for process improvements, and in discussions about improving culture or workforce development. missing ties to business goals © 2013 SideraWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved. Individuals focus their time in two places: where they’re compensated to focus, and where they’re intrinsically motivated to focus. If collaboration is undervalued, it’s not tied to raises, bonuses, promotions, or performance evaluations, and it can discourage people from exploring its more qualitative benefits. If it’s not recognized as a worthwhile accomplishment, it loses its luster pretty quickly. Communication is everything. In addition to communicating that collaboration is valued and will be rewarded, we have to articulate what we mean by collaboration and what our expectations are. If we don’t understand how collaboration can help us do our jobs better or benefit the business, we simply won’t spend time doing it.
  12. 12. competing priorities lack of empowerment for employees Collaboration is an open process and a creative one, but it does require some thought and planning to do well. In fact, it benefits from formalized structures to create the optimal conditions and circumstances for collaboration to arise naturally and regularly. weak internal structure © 2013 SideraWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved. Everyone is being asked to do more with less. And often, workplace environments discourage pursuits of initiatives that aren’t directly related to someone’s role or job description. Collaboration is immediately stifled if individuals don’t feel like they can devote time or resources to it without having their priorities called into question. While business goals are often shared, the path to achieving those goals is complex and requires contribution from varied departments, business units and individuals, all of whom have their own responsibilities. How do you decide which problems are the biggest priorities, and who gets to make that determination? Competing priorities often hobble collaboration efforts before they can even start.
  13. 13. Successful collaboration requires a great deal of trust and contribution on the part of everyone involved. If there are personality conflicts among individuals, they can create difficult or even toxic environments that discourage the discourse and sharing that are so critical to collaborative success. interpersonal conflict © 2013 SideraWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved.
  14. 14. bad is worse than none Effective collaboration, just like social business initiatives, requires a three-pronged approach. A strong focus on Culture, application of enabling Technologies, and a meaningful approach to Adoption (policies, processes, governance, incentives, etc.). These are three legs of a stool and without addressing all three you’re just wasting your resources. In fact, a bad collaboration initiative is worse than an organization simply deciding to not collaborate at all. It happens all too often however, namely because these initiatives will be taken on by a single group or department who isn’t empowered to address the other areas or isn’t educated on the need to do so. Failing to address all three areas is the number one reason that collaboration projects fail (indeed, it’s the main reason for the failure of most cross-departmental initiatives). © 2013 SideraWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved.
  15. 15. the innovation connectionCollaboration and innovation go hand in hand, so it’s easy to see how they can often be confused with one another. This document isn’t about defining innovation so we won’t spend much time on it other than to say that those waters are also muddy. For some companies they only look to quantifiable measures of intellectual property outputs, for others it’s a qualitative trait of their culture. The reality should be somewhere in the middle and the degree varies depending upon industry sector. Regardless of your specific definition, collaboration brings about an exchange of ideas amongst a diversity of viewpoints. And executives intuitively know (and studies prove) that innovation, whether planned or unplanned occurs through this cascading, domino-like sequence of one idea sparking another. So while collaboration is not to be confused with innovation, it is certainly the enabler. © 2013 SideraWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved.
  16. 16. the big picture Collaboration and enhanced innovation are natural artifacts of a social business. The six core traits of a social business (agile, adaptive, empowered, connected, open, and active intelligence) remove barriers to these objectives, reduce friction, and setup the appropriate organizational culture for organic adoption of these types of initiatives. Perhaps more importantly, the holistic viewpoint of a social business mindset ensures that all of the necessary elements for success (culture, technology, process) are accounted for and exponentially increases the odds of seeing a positive return. © 2013 SideraWorks LLC. All Rights Reserved. Adaptability Empowerment Agility Connectivity Active Intelligence Openness
  17. 17. Amber Naslund, President @ambercadabra want to know more? Defining Social Business Matt Ridings, CEO @techguerilla