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Collaboration: Structure matters

When I ask managers who among them is not in favour of collaboration, of course, nobody raises their hand. However, everyone knows that cooperation is often the furthest thing from their mind. How can we explain then, if everybody is for collaboration, that so many silos still exist in our organizations

Reasons are many.

There are those openly expressed: Not enough time. Too far away. Lack of resources. We are already overworked. It’s not a priority. And then, there are those not necessarily voiced but that are there nonetheless: We tried, but it didn’t work. We can’t trust them. I only care about my career, business sector and objectives.

With all these obstacles, to dare ask for more collaboration is to wish for the impossible. Collaboration is a bit like a process. Without a definite structure, clear objectives, and defined roles and responsibilities, everybody is trying their best, but it is not necessary efficient. Organizations without silos have understood that collaboration needs to be structured.

There are three keys to structure collaboration

Value

Organizational or business sector managers make collaboration a core value that translates into their behaviors. They demand of their collaborators that they share information, resources, expertise to innovate and solve problems; that they adopt problem-solving methods.

System

Collaborative organizations implement management practices that support collaboration. For example, they use dashboards with strategic directions, common goals and indicators. They set up committees and multidisciplinary, multi-sectorial, and multi-level teams where everyone works in a collaborative space and stays focused on shared goals. They include collaborative objectives in performance appraisals. They establish communication areas with formalized follow-up meetings. 

Skills

Since collaborative skills are not necessarily innate, collaborative organizations develop these skills in their managers through training, coaching and daily support.

When good will is not enough, providing structure can definitely help support actions. What is your plan to better ensure collaboration?

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