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Leadership Book Review: "Collaborate: The Art of We"

(posted: April 2nd, 2012)

Today's global economy is getting even faster, and the way business is conducted must be as efficient as possible. This book is timely because collaboration is no longer just a good idea, it is absolutely essential to businesses that wish to thrive and grow in this economic "survival of the fittest".

We all have a deep sense that collaborative environments deliver results. What we struggle with are ways to make collaboration a real and constructive thing in our organizations.

Collaborate: The Art of We

by Dan Sanker

This book is the tool that helps business leaders quickly and easily jump into game-changing mode, and prepare themselves to capture tomorrow's business opportunities.

What is your company's Most Vital Resource?

At KLR Consulting, we focus on this question and the larger concept that the answer brings to light. That answer, of course, is people.

We partner with leaders and entrepreneurs to coordinate their organizations around this most vital resource.

I loved this book, as it so aligns with some of KLR's core principles.

"Collaboration is the secret sauce to success."

Collaboration takes a lot of work. However, that work pays off in meaningful rewards to the collaborators and their organizations, and to the world at large.

Collaborative strategies can do great things for businesses:

  • Increase sales.
  • Create innovative opportunities.
  • Improve customer service.
  • Decrease costs.

Collaboration can pave the way to new and better ways of operating.

What is Effective Collaboration?

Dan Sanker defines collaboration as:

"The synergistic relationship formed when two or more entities working together produce something much greater than the sum of their individual abilities and contributions."

A key feature of collaboration is that it is results oriented, not process oriented.

For true collaboration, the parties need a higher level of commitment, a unifying goal, a structure to enable group communication, a group participation in brainstorming, and teamwork.

All of which come together to achieve something far greater than would otherwise be possible.

"If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself."

Henry Ford

For a collaboration to be successful, many elements must come together:

  • Ongoing communication
  • Willing participation
  • Brainstorming
  • Teamwork
  • A common purpose
  • Trust
  • A plan for achieving the goal
  • A diverse group
  • Mutual respect
  • A written agreement
  • Effective leadership

All of the above are critical to building a collaborative culture.

It's teamwork that keeps people with a diverse set of skills, knowledge, information, and perspectives working together effectively and efficiently to achieve their common goal.

Work from the Same Script

A True Team by Definition is a Collaborative Group

Groups of individuals may communicate with one another, participate in bringing a project to life, and generate new ideas in brainstorming sessions, but their process would not amount to collaboration in the absence of teamwork.

One of the first steps that a collaborative group must take is to invest whatever time is needed to clarify and align the goal. As the project proceeds, they also need to review their goal regularly to make sure that everyone is still heading toward the same destination.

Everyone needs to be working from the same script, clearly understanding roles and responsibilities.They need to have the same understanding of what success looks like.

A well-developed plan:

  • Clarifies the goal and describes what needs to be done to achieve it
  • Assigns roles and responsibilities
  • Establishes a timeline
  • Identifies necessary resources
  • Describes the ways in which people will communicate and work together, and how they will resolve conflicts

The Stages of Collaboration

Each collaborative effort has a greater chance of success when most, or all, of the steps are fulfilled.

Stage One: Assembling the Group

Attributes that make good team members:

  • A positive attitude, open-mindedness, curiosity, and enthusiasm for the subject.
  • Good communication skills; without communication there would be no collaboration
  • Flexibility and the ability to tolerate ambiguity.
  • A willingness to take risks.
  • Critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Creativity: Creativity simply refers to the ability to come up with something that did not exist before, which is after all the objective of collaboration.
  • The ability to be self-reflective. People who have an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses are more likely to be able to understand the ways in which they can best contribute to the collaborative effort.
  • Good interpersonal skills.
  • The ability to see the big picture.
  • Selecting or identifying a leader.
  • Defining and agreeing on the goal.
  • Identifying measures of success.

When the group defines its goal at the beginning of the project, they also need to define the measures of success. This means describing the situation that will exist once the goal has been achieved.

Focus on:

"How will we know when we've achieved our goal?" and "What will success look like?"

  • Establishing roles and responsibilities
  • Agreeing on a working process
  • Establishing a process for communicating with one another
  • Setting priorities
  • Making decisions
  • Holding one another accountable
  • Developing an action plan for achieving the goal

Stage Two: Implementing the Plan

  • Tracking and monitoring progress.
  • Revisiting the plan if necessary.

As the project progresses, the team needs to review the plan often and revise it in response to new information and changes in the situation.

In advance, expect that unanticipated challenges will arise, and build processes to manage them.

Stage Three: Evaluating the Outcome

  • Determining what worked and what might have been done differently.
  • Deciding on next steps.

"Working together means winning together."

John Maxwell

Every organization has an opportunity to define, develop and nurture its own collaborative culture. It takes considerable time to build and maintain a collaborative environment that becomes ingrained in the organization's DNA.

When you begin to implement the best practices from this book, it will soon become apparent that helping each other work through issues together will enable the whole team to create value and realize success in their endeavors.

One of my favorite quotes:

"Success without a plan is just an accident."

Rick Sprague

Challenge Yourself
  • Are you willing to make that essential commitment that will allow your businesses to thrive and grow in this economic "survival of the fittest"?

This blog post was originally published at www.linked2leadership.com.


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