Creating value through organizational collaboration is much like baking a cake – forget a key ingredient and it won’t rise.
In today’s economic climate both inter and intra organizational collaborations are increasing, the potential benefits of which are undeniable. The issue of course is finding the right recipe to successfully bake the cake.
In order for collaborations to work there are 3 key ingredients: strategy to follow, tools and technologies with which to execute the strategy and the organizational culture to support it. (Paraphrased from Evan Rosen’s “The Culture of Collaboration“. Follow his blog )
A prime example of a successful (well, there were a few hang ups) foray into organizational collaboration is the creation of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This futuristic aircraft began with Boeings desire to have only the best of the best working on it’s design. Ordinarily, Boeing would house all the designers and engineers at their site in Washington. However, with several international candidates in mind that was no longer a viable option. So, without comprimising their desire to build the best aircraft with the best people Boeing embarked on a collaborative effort massive in scale and expectation. Rather than simply outsourcing their parts they made several parts designers and manufacturers around the globe ‘partners’ in this venture. With sites spanning several countries and time zones nearly every position was shared with others in opposing time zones thus allowing design and manufacture to occur 24 hours a day equalling a savings of a full year of production time!
Boeing introduced the Global Collaborative Environment (GCE), a set of computer and networking capabilities made available via the Web to every member of the 787 team, no matter what their location. Cutting edge 3D CAD programs were distributed to all participating partners to ensure consistency in design, and regular virtual communication was built into the strategy from the start. Most importantly however, a global culture of collaboration was initiated by having the multipe organizations involved in the 787’s development as co-designers and producers rather than mere suppliers to support the integrity of the process – every participant had a share in the sucess of the Dreamliner.
There were of course road blocks, including material shortages leading to delayed production that had better global monitoring protocols been put in place could have been avoided. But, ultimately that is part of the process. For a first attempt Boeing’s global collaboration effort has become a model for other organizational collaborations.