Tools to promote collaboration

Managers can use several collaboration tools (commonly referred to as levers) to remove barriers, depending upon the specific situation. First, there is the unification lever that managers can seek to unify staff by articulating common goals, inciting a common value of teamwork, and speaking and openly practicing the language of collaboration.

Essentially, this is leading by example; however, it is slightly more complex than just that, because managers need to use the right example. Specifically managers should be careful to structure their examples in three ways. First, craft a central unifying goal of some kind that is both easy to describe and compelling, so that people will commit to something beyond their own individual goals. It should be simple and concrete, stir passion, and put competition on the outside, not the inside of an organization. Second, create and demonstrate a core value of teamwork across the breadth of an organization and not just within one’s department that reaches the highest echelons of an organization. Third, create and use language which encourages collaboration and be consistent, and thorough.

Make sure that that language of collaboration is not contradicted by talk about intense competition. Following those three steps, should result in the unification lever being a potent weapon in overcoming collaborative barriers.

The second lever available to managers to overcome collaborative barriers is the people lever. Managers can hire and /or cultivate T-shaped employees that understand the need to combine the results they generate within their own units with those they generate by cross-unit collaboration. A T-shaped employee excels at delivering results in his or her section, department, or unit, and yet at the same time is capable of deriving results from collaborating across the company.

The third lever available is the network lever. Managers can overcome barriers to collaboration by encouraging the formation and strengthening of networks and other cross-unit relationships. Generally, the first two collaboration tools work better to overcome cultural barriers that discourage creativity and encourage hoarding of resources and knowledge, while the network lever is more effective in overcoming organizational and communication barriers.


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