Staff are a business’s most valuable asset – they help deliver success, they know the business, the customers and can identify internal logjams, poor processes, and inefficiencies. Given these insights it is a ‘no brainer’ that they should be your first port of call when you want to reap the business benefits of collaboration.
Why drive collaboration in business?
In 2014, Deloittes estimated that IF Australian businesses adopted a collaborative approach it could deliver $46 billion dollars to the economy. A significant economic reason to lead collaboration in business.
There are however more compelling reasons at a business level to provide collaborative leadership. The same report by Deloittes found a strong correlation between collaboration and business profitability. So it also makes good business sense.
Collaboration could banishing many workplace woes
Collaborations can also be an effective antidote for many workplace woes such as poor morale, turnover. The sort of woes it can make a positive impact on are
- better using staff time and increasing productivity when the knowledge, capabilities and resources across the whole organisation are fully utilised and repetition is reduced,
- improving the quality of work as more people are involved in problem solving,
- encouraging and supporting innovation through ideas generation, exploration and validation,
- reducing silos and ‘and subcultures within organisations, and finally
- enhancing employee engagement leading to reduced turnover.
What is stopping us from collaborating ?
Some of the key barriers to collaboration are
- unclear goals on the purpose and scope of collaboration.
- no clearly articulated decision making process to guide and support collaboration.
- a lack of commitment by management to collaboration.
To this list I would add
- disconnected teams or staff,
- unequal status or favouritism by management of teams, groups and/or individual staff members,
- a disconnection between what is said (commitment to collaboration) while in practice work assignments work against collaboration, and finally
- leadership that does not support or feel comfortable managing collaboration (and conversely releasing control).
It is easy to see that these barriers will grow exponentially as the size of the business grows.
Leadership must drive collaboration
In the face of these barriers, strong leadership is essential for success. Building a workplace that supports and encourages collaboration needs conscious and deliberate Board and management leadership. A recent article on the Board’s role in innovation could easily be applied to driving and leading collaboration. I say this as collaboration has been described as the “key ingredient to ‘frontier’ or ‘creative’ innovation” implicit in this is you cannot have one without the other.
The Collaboration Imperative written by Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese identified the following as key steps in driving collaboration
- agree a common language and understanding that will underpin the culture of collaboration,
- develop a clear blueprint of the collaborative process including decision points and what will drive the decision outcomes, and
- demonstrate your ‘faith’ in your staff by assigning decision authority at various levels in the business
They, Ricci and Wiese say
“Although collaboration is about decentralizing, it has to start at the top”