The competitive performance orientation of modern business can mean executives will focus intently on execution of the goal. There are no prizes for first, fastest or biggest in collaboration. The best collaboration is fulfillment of your strategic goals. That’s ongoing adaptive work.
Starting the Race
When starting a new collaboration implementation, questions from senior executives often focuses on what success of the project looks like. These executives look to external experts and sources to guide their definition of success. The questions often come from the traditional competitive dynamics of business:
- Will we be the first of our competitors on this tool?
- Who’s got the most employees?
- Who’s best in our industry or market?
- How many employees do we need to get on the platform?
- How fast can we get this done?
- Why do we need to invest for that long?
- Can we do it cheaper than others?
There is no prize for collaboration. In hunting for the traditional definition of success in competition beyond the organisation, these executives are starting in the wrong place
Each organisation’s strategy, culture, needs and team are different. Benchmarks can be shared, become competitive goals and a source of bragging rights, but they are usually meaningless in the creation of value. Rather than engaging in the traditional business competition, each organisation needs to develop its own strategic plan and invest accordingly.
In the questions above, while the executives are asking to quantify goals, they are actually trying to make sense of what success looks like in this new and different way of working. Most executives have learned to define success clearly for a new endeavour and work their way back from there using tried and true transactional methods to hit that target. The questions are all efforts to assess how hard the transition will be and what they will need to do to support the change. Answer the question at face value with a number or a case study and you might short circuit the learning and sense making process. Importantly, you run the risk of ending up with tried and true approaches rather than a wider adaptive change.
The questions are all efforts to assess how hard the transition will be and what they will need to do to support the change. Answer the question at face value with a number or a case study and you might short circuit the learning and sense making process. Importantly, you run the risk of ending up with tried and true approaches rather than a wider adaptive change.
Leverage these questions to engage the executives on the question of why they are pursuing collaboration. Go looking for the answer of what success looks like in the broader plans and goals within the organisation. You can’t quantify success until you know what they want and the work they have underway to achieve it.
Help the executives to understand that an important part of any collaborative work is the goals of the workers too. This is a conversation that stretches well beyond the board room and has the potential to significantly change the direction of the project. The goal of any collaboration project is to leverage the discretionary contributions of employees. Their definition of success matters too.
Don’t fall for the numbers game and short term targets. A collaboration project is ongoing adaptive work for the whole organisation.