There are many elements of collaboration, and we often encounter the “blind men and the elephant problem”. We’re all talking about collaboration, but we’re actually discussing different parts of the animal.
Some people are referring to technology when they talk about collaboration, others are looking at the “collaborative culture” within organisations, while still others consider collaboration from an individual’s perspective. All are valid topics, but the breadth of collaboration can lead to crossed lines when we try to bring them all together.
Within an organisation, it’s easy to get caught up in just a few aspects of collaboration, leaving big holes that impact on short and long-term success. How do we ensure we’re looking at all the necessary elements of collaboration?
While sitting in an airport on the way back to Australia, a overall model for collaboration coalesced in my mind, bringing together all the different aspects of collaboration. This is still in its infancy, but I thought it would be useful to share it, and to get some feedback.
A model: three tiers of collaboration
Each tier builds on the one below, starting with capacity (pre-requisites for collaboration), through capability (strength of collaborative activities and approaches) to strategy (overall focus on collaboration).
A brief outline of each item, starting from the bottom up:
- Culture of collaboration – integration of collaborative practices into “the way we work” throughout the organisation.
- Individual readiness – the skills, background, practices and personality of individuals for collaboration.
- Social networks – the breadth and strength of social and interpersonal relationships within the organisation.
- Business opportunity – the time and opportunity for collaboration within daily work practices and overall business model.
- Collaboration tools – designing and deploying effective collaboration tools.
- Collaboration model – overall model for collaboration, in the context of information management strategy.
- Support for the individual – providing individuals with personal tools and support for collaboration.
- Fostering connections – skills and support for fostering interaction and relationships between people.
- Governance – ownership, resourcing and decision making processes for collaboration.
- Roadmap – overall strategy and roadmap for the adoption and growth of collaboration within the organisation.
- Business value – demonstrated business or organisational value of collaboration, and alignment with core business goals.
- Strategic focus – organisation recognises collaboration as a ‘top line’ element of overall success and strategy.
Using the model
This is a descriptive model, that oulines all the elements of collaboration, and it can be used in a variety of ways:
- as the basis for a self-assessment of where collaboration activities are currently focused in the organisation
- to identify areas of strength and weakness in collaboration strategies
- as the basis for research and learning about collaborative approaches
- as a way of structuring a collection of collaboration techniques and approaches
- as a shared model to build understanding between practitioners of collaboration
As previously indicated, this is an early version of the model, very much a work-in-progress. Your questions, suggestions or improvements?