It has come to my attention recently that in these articles we have often explored the nuances of collaboration including the conditions and behaviours needed to get it right and the barriers you may face to success and how to identify pseudo collaborations but we have very minimally referenced the pit falls of too much collaboration.
It is indisputable that organizations leveraging properly executed collaborations produce superior innovation and results over traditional bureaucratic systems. However, that doesn’t mean that every decision in an organization needs to be a collaborative effort. As part of HBR’s Insight Center “Getting Collaboration Right” authors Morten T. Hansen and Herminia Ibarra identify the 2 main traps organizations fall into when ‘trying to get it right’:
Under-collaboration. Companies that operate as a collection of silos commit the cardinal sin of under-performing. Both ideas and money are left on the table because managers are unwilling or unable to combine resources to create new products, or share best practices to improve efficiency. Sony for example was unable to come up with its version of iPod/iTunes because divisions competed with one another.
Over-collaboration. The alternative problem is that collaboration sometimes goes too far. It sets in when people collaborate on the wrong things or when collaboration efforts get bogged down in endless discussions and consensus decision-making in which no one is clearly accountable. The result is slow and poor execution. At the oil giant BP a few years back, efforts to promote collaboration across the many operating business were so successful that employees over-collaborated. According to former CIO John Leggate: “People always had a good reason for meetings. You’re sharing best practices. You’re having good conversations with like-minded people. But increasingly, we found that people were flying around the world and simply sharing ideas without always having a strong focus on the bottom line.” Only when they calibrated their effort did BP reap benefits from collaboration.
So yes, you can over-collaborate. Having said that, the example of over-collaboration above was missing a key component of any organizational culture as a whole – accountability. In a successful collaborative culture an organization shares common values and goals, as such everyone in that organization is accountable for putting their maximum effort towards achieving those goals. Any organizational systems designed to reward collaboration must take steps to ensure what they are promoting is disciplined collaboration.
The Kingbridge Insight this week is one I am sure you have heard many times before: Collaboration isn’t easy! It takes extensive planning, knowledge, behavioural considerations and self reflection not to mention re-designing entire corporate cultures to even give all that work a chance to be successful! It is not to be taken lightly, real collaboration is a massive undertaking and doing it wrong can be as damaging to an organization as not doing it at all.