Collaboration: It Determines Success
Updated: Nov 11, 2019
Regardless of an organization’s size, number of employees, years of operation or unique, desirable product or service, its ability to optimize its growth and performance is directly tied to collaboration.
While collaboration is traditionally thought of as how co-workers can work as a team to continuously improve whatever they are doing, it is definitely not limited to employees only. Granted, where collaboration is taught, allowed and encouraged within an organization there are significant gains from cost saving to industry leading products and services. Think for a nanosecond the benefits of collaborating with customers and suppliers.
The greatest failure of attempts to implement collaboration is identifiable.
Getting really good at it is best developed and matured internally. But how?
Harvard Business Review editors think collaboration is significant enough to have selected it as the cover story of the November-December 2019 issue: “Cracking the Code on Collaboration” It starts in the “Idea in Brief” of the article saying this: “In all too many organizations, efforts to promote and sustain collaboration fall short.”
Then it goes on to say, “Leaders trying to create collaborative cultures tend to focus on instilling the right values or designing the right space. They overlook the fact that collaboration requires certain skills.”
This is not a new concept. (W. Edwards Deming, originated Total Quality Management a process he developed and implemented extensively within U.S. manufacturers of military equipment for World War II.) In a subsequent handbook for management entitled, “Out of the Crisis,” published by MIT Press in 1982, he succinctly notes in the chapter, “Questions to Help Managers,” “Do you rid yourself of problems with people on the factory floor by establishing EI groups (Employee Involvement Groups), EPG (Employee Participation Groups), QC-Circles, QWL (Quality of Work Life) and then leave them stranded with no participation of management?”
A case study out of Marquis’ own experience provides insight into implementation of collaboration in a very unlikely industry sector - coal mining in the 1990s.
One overheard conversation among an underground mine crew occurred when the foreman was asking where a hydraulic jack was in the dark depths of the mine. When no one answered, he sent one of the crew members off into the mine where he thought the jack was last seen.
One miner, standing near me, whispered to a fellow crew member, “I know where the jack is, but I will be damned if I am going to tell him!”
A few months later, with the cooperation and collaboration of the United Mine Workers Union, the company adopted and trained all of its employees, from accountants to miners, in week long classes in Total Quality Management, or TQM. It leveled the field between foremen and their team and engaged them in a trained methodology that the miners were so enthusiastic about that they carried the concepts and tools with them to their local churches and schools because it was so successful.
Forward to 2019 and Silicon Valley, where a recent blind survey of 11,000 employees of FAANG companies (Facebook Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google), was conducted by AngelList and matched up with an independent survey of startups on the topic, about their current workplace happiness.
One of the primary questions was: What Do Startup Employees Look for and Value Most in their Next Job?
22% - Develop my skills
16% - Learn from my team members.
Over 60% of startup employees are happy in their current jobs, while 30% in FAANG companies are happy.
The critical value of collaboration for people working together is that they gain personal satisfaction from being able to contribute to their work every day. Quite a contrast to being told what to do, doing it, and then onto the next task.
Francesco Gino, a behavioral scientist at Harvard Business School and the author of the Harvard Business Review article cites sustained collaborations in varied industries as having critical attributes:
Widespread respect for colleagues’ contributions
Openness to experimenting with others’ ideas
Sensitivity to how one’s actions may affect both colleagues work the mission’s outcome.
Within your own personal experience, do you learn the most when you listen and ask questions or when you talk?
An interesting example taken out of Pixar’s practices is an exercise called “leading from the inside out” in which participants present a challenge to those that they are collaborating with on a project.
For more details on implementation:
Stephen N Anderson
Marquis Advisory Group