Collaboration to the Rescue

“Collaboration to the Rescue”
(Being on the Same Page Can Make the Difference Between Success and Failure)

I'd guess that each of us, deep down, understands that a collaborative process has a great deal to offer. When we watch football, soccer, and other team sports, we know that while there are a few superstars. the team wins because of the ensemble, not the just the key players. The same goes for most areas of our lives, but business is especially important because success in business says a lot about who we are, as well as driving our own and our loved ones’ well-being.

Unlike soccer or football, however, business does not often stand out as a collaborative endeavor. We don't always realize that collaboration is just as important in the business arena as it is in the sports arena. One reason for that is the traditional division of duties, which can have some unintended consequences. By creating separate departments, we can end up with separate teams within one environment. Such division can often evolve into a competitive, not collegial atmosphere.

Many years ago, we worked with a manufacturing firm that was growing very rapidly and gaining enormous respect in its markets. The problem was that despite the company’s growth, it was losing money, in large part because of a disproportionate amount of interdepartmental competition. Individual departments were pitted against each other to the point where they were fighting more and cooperating less.

We came to understand that a major reason that this was happening was because each department had a limited understanding of what the other departments did and what value they added to the company. The solution, though a bit unorthodox, was to require that each department make a detailed presentation (usually more than 2 hours long) to the other department\'s key team members about their department: how it worked, how it connected to the work and the overall goals of company, how department members helped other departments, what they needed from these other departments, and what key values each department added to their work.

It was a success. By taking the time to really understand what they did and how they meshed with and needed other departments, everyone’s view of the entire business process changed. By becoming engaged, they were able to engage others, and vice versa. A new respect among everyone grew as each department made its presentation.

The net result was a new platform based on a team mindset instead of a divisional nightmare. The company also developed a completely different employee orientation that every new employee—and all the existing employee—had to take. It evolved into a two-day introduction process that got everyone on the same page early on. Because new and old team members did the training together, a collaborative culture was fostered from the start as they became better friends and better team players.

The company doubled in the next 36 months. This growth happened not because of some special or clever approach, but because every employee knew that each department was part of the team, not a competitive adversary to be shown up or outshone. Once they got on the same page, all the good work of the past could be brought forward and continued on a much more robust and solid platform, now that everyone was pulling together.

So, Collaboration to the Rescue worked again. It helped get everyone on the same page so they could reach their full potential together as a company-wide team, embracing their fellow teammates as valuable assets, not struggling against each other as factions led by departmental warlords.

How have you reached out in your company to create a more collaborative environment? We’d enjoy hearing your story.


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