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Beyond Silos Series – The Three Keys to Crack the Code of Collaboration

"Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die," says a song.  The same thing can be said about collaboration. Everybody wants more cooperation, but who is willing to question his/her ways to ensure greater collaboration? Not too long ago, I was told about a manager who hailed cooperation. He deplored his colleagues’ lack of collaboration, without realizing that he was perceived as being less than cooperative. As the old saying goes: “Hell is other people.”

Therefore, it is easier said than done to undo the silos and cooperate more. My experience and research have enabled me to identify three keys that are essential to crack the code of collaboration:

1. Value. Make collaboration a core value; not empty written or spoken words, but a value consistently reinforced by executives and managers. A value that is noticeable through attitudes, actions and decisions. For example, initiate regular meetings that involve people from several sectors and actively participate by making sure everyone is heard and by building consensus.

2. System. Relying on everyone’s good will to improve cooperation is to risk major disappointment. Too many valid reasons are invoked to justify a lack of collaboration (we’re too busy, it takes too long, it’s too complicated, we tried already, with them it doesn’t work, etc.). One key is to structure the collaborative efforts. It is helpful to set up goals, dashboards, committees, multidisciplinary teams, meetings held at regular intervals, indicators and mechanisms to:

  • Identify quickly problems, challenges and opportunities with the help of employees, customers and partners;
  • Translate these problems or opportunities into actions;
  • Escalate decision making rapidly to the appropriate hierarchical level;
  • Implement solutions and develop innovations that involve relevant stakeholders;
  • Organize meetings promoting collaborative work.

3. Skills. Wanting to collaborate is one thing.Whether people have the skills to initiate and support cooperation is a different matter. Who can say they have really learned or mastered the following skills:

  • Expressing their opinions and needs into words that encourage discussion;
  • Truly listening to someone else’s views;
  • Holding difficult conversations efficiently when disagreements arise and emotions run high;
  • Creating and supporting a communication climate;
  • Knowing how to explore new solutions designed to meet the mutual interests of stakeholders.

If silos and lack of cooperation are issues in your organization, assessing how these three keys apply to your situation is the first step. Then, it is a matter of "cooperating” to put in place measures that address the gaps identified.

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