Seven steps to successful collaboration


Seven steps to successful collaboration

Collaboration is a top priority for many leaders today. Public, private and charitable organisations must effectively collaborate with a range of stakeholders both within and outside their organisation to operate effectively.

Added on 06 May 2015 by Guy Lubitsh

Collaboration is working with others to perform a task and to achieve shared goals. It not only reduces costs, it also drives innovation and enables employees to feel more connected to their jobs, co-workers and partner organisations.

But, knowing what makes organisations successful can be challenging. After all, no two companies are the same and their strategies, ways of working and technologies can all be quite different.

To win at collaboration it is critical to get buy-in from the top of the organisation. Success or failure reflects the philosophy of top executives. There has to be willingness from the top down, across groups and individually to drive collaboration strategy and adopt collaboration tools.

A range of collaboration platforms and technologies are now available, but first ensure that your strategy and goals for collaboration are clear, and understood by all stakeholders involved.

Collaboration in the digital age can spur original thinking, spearheading connections across locations and departments that previously couldn’t have occurred. Tools include social networking platforms such as Chatter or Yammer that can be set up organisation-wide to help share new ways of thinking internally to stimulate the sharing of ideas.

Collaboration is critical and clearly something we can all benefit from. Here are some top tips to drive success:


Make a strong financial case

Highlight the direct and indirect costs associated with the current situation and how collaboration internally or across organisational boundaries can work towards reducing these. Look for the evidence and data to support your arguments. Measure what matters to show how collaboration can support individuals, teams and organisations.

Help staff to make sense of change

Help staff understand what is changing in their part of the organisation and why they should be sharing information with staff and other stakeholders, even when the information is unlikely to be received favourably. This requires managers to be explicit about what they know and what they do not know: for instance, some timescales will be known and others will remain undecided or be open to negotiation. 

Also work with staff to help them understand how and why they are experiencing specific reactions to changes in their organisations and support them in prioritising activities.

Listen to staff and communicate

Listen to your employees - their ideas, their opinions, concerns and their suggestions and integrate their feedback in your technology and strategy. Research reveals that being listened to and treated with dignity and respect increases employees’ trust and willingness to collaborate. 

Communicate widely, and work politically across formal and informal boundaries to build connections, dispel rumours, develop shared agendas and look for opportunities for integration. 

Create a supportive atmosphere and shine a light on givers

In a recent Harvard Business Review article “In the company of givers and takers”, Adam Grant, professor of psychology at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a best-selling author, encourages leaders to build a collaborative work environment that attracts givers to an organisation and appeals less to takers.

This means recognising and rewarding employees who demonstrate generosity. For example, senior managers who set up a task force to deal with a complex issue across boundaries or volunteer to mentor junior workers should be recognised and applauded. 

Use a quality improvement methodology

In our experience it’s very helpful to underpin changes by using a proven quality improvement methodology (for example, Lean or the Theory of Constraints). These provide a framework for staff to implement changes that promote organisation-wide benefits rather than local efficiency.

Avoid service specific jargon

Working across organisational boundaries means working with different professional groups (for example, finance, operations or IT) and requires clear communication. Be aware that others may not be expert in your area and avoid using technical or professional jargon. 

Capture knowledge

Capturing knowledge is vital, so that staff have the right information, when they need it. Knowledge sharing helps induct new employees, encourages team working and protects against team members leaving and taking their knowledge and experience with them. Enabling teams to share their work in microblogs, wiki pages and blog posts helps to circulate knowledge, facilitate discussion and capture ideas.

Guy Lubitsh is a principal consultant at Ashridge, where he is the head of the NHS practice. He is a highly experienced chartered organisational psychologist, leadership developer, facilitator, executive coach. He has over 15 years' experience as an organisation consultant working in a range of sectors including healthcare, energy, media and telecommunications.