Enabling effective collaboration in its work environment is essential if an organization wishes to operate as a Lean-Agile Enterprise. I refer to this environment more specifically as the value stream knowledge-worker ecosystem. Collaboration is a key characteristic that enables speed, fast learning, and scaling the Lean-Agile Mindset in this ecosystem. The benefits to be had are great: a unified face to customers, faster internal decision making, the ability to reduce costs by effectively sharing resources, and the development of more innovative products.
Companies spend billions of dollars on initiatives to improve collaboration, yet few have realized the desired results. Why? Because management most often does not take a systems perspective when examining the problem to identify and address the root cause, conflict. Instead, companies attempt to address the symptoms of the problem, focusing on restructuring their organizations and re-engineering their business processes. On the people side, there are efforts to educate people on teamwork which often is seen to be just a management term as often satirized by popular comics like Dilbert.
Additionally, management may offer financial motivation such as cross-unit incentives, ignoring the current science around knowledge worker motivation.
While the attempts to address the symptoms of the problem yield the occasional success story, most of them only have limited impact and many are total failures. In my experience, many restructuring efforts actually end up causing more conflict because the current realities in the human work ecosystems of the organizations are not considered. This can actually cause these restructuring efforts to create additional barriers to collaboration. I have seen this to be especially relevant in organizations that scale by acquiring other organizations.
Don’t get the wrong idea about conflict. In a Lean-Agile Enterprise, conflict and effective conflict management are the fire and the craft from which innovation is forged.
The idea is not to try to eliminate conflict, the idea is to foster a knowledge worker ecosystem that enables its effective management and resolution. Enterprises that welcome constructive conflict and that can institutionalize approaches for managing it will rank high on the Collaboration element scale of the FACTUAL Framework.