If the success of a business concept were measured by the number of clichés it has generated, collaborative working would be near the top. Our ducks would be in line, pulling in the same direction and singing from the same hymn sheet!
The number of different ways that management consultants and trainers have devised to talk about how we work together suggests that collaboration isn’t as instinctive and natural as we’d like. At its simplest, collaboration is typically defined as people working together to reach an agreed end goal. So, first off, we all need a common understanding of what that goal is and why that goal is important to our customer.
We then need common processes, defined roles and tasks, and measurable results. Those roles and tasks must be assigned to the most appropriate individuals with sensible timescales.
Effective collaboration is a way of working. Regular reviews and meetings enable us to evaluate and measure success throughout the planning and delivery stages. Once the dust has settled, more often than not we see a successful outcome. Much of the time this happens without drawing attention to the collaborative nature of these relationships.
That’s a very simplistic view of a process which involves the customer, Osborne and our supply chain partners, and may well take into account others, such as local businesses or residents.
There are countless articles online about effective collaboration. The success factors most of these highlight are clarity, openness and consensus. The other dimension that could probably be added is thoughtfulness. In other words, have we thought through exactly why we are collaborating, what we want to achieve and whether we are getting the most out of collaboration?
In a culture of continuous improvement, are we looking closely enough and asking whether collaboration is delivering all it can to our business and to our customers and stakeholders? Capturing and implementing lessons learned is one way of improving our performance, but what other ways are there of measuring and improving our delivery?
We can always improve how we work together, both within our own teams and in working with customers and partners. It requires serious thought, openness and honesty. It may not yield a quick result – but it can be achieved.