Are You Unknowingly Fighting Collaboration?

Beware of five challenges preventing effective collaboration.

The outcome from working together is visually demonstrated by observing efforts in dragon boat racing, team sports or even marching band field shows. In each scenario, trust and collaboration are keys to realizing success.

In my research, I focus on the emerging field ofOrganization IQ, or OrgIQ. One of the first to identify this was executive management consultant, futurist and author Karl Albrecht. He also looked at what madeorganizations less intelligent and more ineffective.

One of the keys to an organization’s success and level of intelligence is the ability to look and act holistically and include all levels in the process of performing the organization’s mission. Albrecht depicted collaboration as a shared fate and defined how internal roles and processes are dependent on each other. He acknowledged the power of a common cause and a sense of community to create a formidable competitive power.

As my research examined OrgIQ, it became apparent that a framework to analyze organizations in this area could be developed. To become smarter and move up on the Hollis OrgIQ Continuum, a widespread culture of collaboration is necessary. Collaboration is an intelligence-building outcome, and it supports:

  • Moving projects and initiatives forward as well as creating an internal ecosystem to effectively address challenges when they are presented.
  • Promoting a focus on quality as part of the work effort in product design, engineering or production — there should be a sense of pride with the output.
  • Enabling employees to act as a respected resource to build intelligence — it is not up to an elite few or dependent on a bureaucratic approval process.
  • Creating a sense of purpose and meaning with the added bonus of valuing their contribution.
  • Building a strong bond to promote employee retention and reduce turnover cost.
  • Promoting a stronger, deeper focus on developing and uncovering talent within the organization.

Knowing that collaboration has measurable outcomes, some organizations may desire it, but systemic processes, policies and even people can become obstacles to realizing that goal and stunt longer-term success.

Collaboration often fails to take hold in organizations because of five challenges:

1. Mergers/consolidations: A perception takes hold that collaboration and sharing information could make an individual less valuable. 

2. Systemic processes: Diametrically opposed processes can affect quality and production objectives. For instance, if current reward systems reward one team for getting a product released without regard for quality and another teams’ goals are in opposition, focus on reducing product returns.

3. Toxic environment: Organizational toxicity can emanate from addiction, harassment and nepotism; cast aspersions; discredit others and their teams; and ridicule or bully those perceived as a threat.

4. Mental and/or emotional blocks: Leaders may perceive benefits in not collaborating and intentionally keeping others off balance, encouraging friction. This can outwardly manifest as borderline narcissistic or obsessive compulsive disorder. It may work short term, but the side effects of long-term exposure can create individual insecurities that lessen productivity andincrease turnover and associated costs.

5. Bonding vs. bridging: When collaboration is present, there is a bridging of cultures, teams and ideas. The bridge allows for transparency and two-way communication. Bonding, on the other hand, creates moats for silos, preventing the flow of communication as the team bonds unto itself. The bond may be held together by fear or loyalty to an individual. What begins as a clique becomes a silo; turf protection and expansion are the goals instead of focusing on the organization’s mission and vision.

The dragon boat team that starts out with rowers at different cadences can increase communication and work together to find its rhythm and cross the finish line. An organization also has the potential within itself to change, to raise its OrgIQ and to avoid the pitfalls that can inhibit collaboration.