Collaboration is a vital part of working life and vital for organisations in achieving their goals. Working together effectively as teams and individuals is a constant and essential part of most jobs. And for many roles, collaborating effectively with stakeholders from outside the organisation is increasingly important.
We collaborate so often in our working lives that potentially it becomes one of those invisible things that we simply take for granted. But should we? Do we collaborate as effectively as we could? Is something that happens all the time actually something we should examine in more detail and explore whether we can make it work more effectively. We take collaboration for granted. Do we actually collaborate all that well?
A recent conversation with a new coaching client ran a bit like this. They have just taken on a new role in a new organisation to develop a new product area. They seemed fairly unfazed about most aspects of the challenges that faced them. Except for one. When they talked about how a core part of ‘getting things done’ would involve getting the development team and the customer service team to work better together their body language changed and they audibly sighed. “They don’t really get on. Different languages. Different people. Different culture”.
Their organisation prides itself on being a collaborative organisation. But is it? When it comes to productive collaboration it can be all too easy for things to get in the way.
That’s why we find the idea of Radical Collaboration so energising. This starts from the perspective that collaborating more effectively isn’t just something that could help organisations perform better. It’s an important part of changing the world and solving some of the planetary scale problems faced by the human race.
The weaknesses identified in ordinary forms of collaboration feel relevant to any sphere or challenge. Typically collaboration occurs via a group of individuals or organisations coming together out of a sense of ‘personal motivation’. They collaborate based on the return that might come to them from the collaboration:
“What do most of these partnerships have in common? Upon reflection, we would say that they are mostly transactional in nature — even with thoughtful, well-meaning people at the helm. All too quickly, those good intentions get gummed up in the “quid pro quo” nature by which most institutions and individuals approach partnerships: How will this help my organization’s brand or increase our funding? Can my boss get visibility and speaking opportunities out of this? Will our name come first on the press release?”
The alternative to this transactional approach is collaboration based around a sense of shared purpose. Rather than collaborate for transactional gain, organisations or individuals could align around a common purpose or goal, where the outcome or benefit is simply achieving the goal for the sake of the goal itself.
This reminds us of the enhanced performance and behaviour we see with our clients as they become leadership organisations. When organisations have made use of transformational coaching programmes throughout the organisation, rather than with small, discrete groups they frequently arrive at a much greater sense of shared language and common purpose. The outcome of this is greatly improved collaboration as the transactional goals of separate departments competing with each other for their more fragmented goals are replaced with shared goals and aligned behaviours.
What does collaboration look like in your organisation? Is it transactional and in need of radical transformation? Or is it aligned around a sense of common purpose and a shared culture and language?
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