Collaboration: Over-talked, Under executed   

One such idea that gets a lot of press these days, but less execution, is collaboration. Everyone is in love with the idea of collaboration, including me. We dream about teams where members contribute to a common mission that is impossible to accomplish alone. Unfortunately, the dream of collaboration often doesn’t get much beyond simple cooperation—where everyone is segmented off “doing their own thing.” Yawn.

My concern for the people I lead, and the clients I coach, is that we all are able to move beyond the good idea of collaboration to a consistent implementation in the real-time of daily work. It’s not that talk is cheap when it comes to collaboration. In fact it’s quite important. It would be better to say that talk isn’t enough.

If we don’t translate good ideas and dialogue into concrete action, collaboration becomes a buzzword with little energy behind it. In that kind of environment, the word collaboration is met with subtle sighs or eye rolls. People will stop believing in the possibility of such ideas. As Charan and Bossidy note, this kind of failure to execute will deflate, if not destroy, an organizations ability to believe in the power of good ideas (like collaboration), because they will not see those ideas actualized. What to do?

Collaboration: A Working Definition

    I’m privileged to spend time with a lot of different teams. There are certain teams that are a joy to watch collaborate. It’s not that these teams don’t have their struggles, but that there’s almost a magic that occurs when they collaborate.

When we collaborate, we experience one of the highest of human values. Over the years, these experiences have served to shape my definition of collaboration.

Here it is:
Collaboration is a collective discovery of and alignment around a given mission (small or large), that leads a team to execute a series of shared projects where each team player donates his or her gifts and skills to the accomplishment of that mission.

The two most important parts of the definition then are, 1) a collective discovery of the mission, and 2) a project mentality around the accomplishment of the mission. Let’s take a look at both these components from the lens of execution.

stay tuned for more on this…