Most people agree that collaboration across functions and divisions is critical for major projects and initiatives designed to reduce costs or generate new revenues but collaboration remains elusive for many companies as they continue to struggle to bring together the necessary skills and resources of different departments, each focused on their own specific objectives.

The upshot of a lack of collaboration is that new opportunities to create economic value are thwarted or completely missed; complex, customised products are hard to create on time and on budget; new sales and distribution channels are difficult to negotiate, and interactions with customers are sluggish.

Too often managers confuse collaboration with cooperation, where people are willing to get together, to share information and cooperate. Despite well-meaning common interest groups, or adopting cooperative behaviours, this confusion is where interdepartmental collaboration often breaks down.

Real collaboration involves making tough decisions and trade-offs about what, and what not to do, in order to adjust workloads across areas with different priorities and bosses. It means participating in joint initiatives with other people that perhaps you don’t even like.

There is no doubt that cooperation and coordination enable colleagues to work together across boundaries, but without a focus on joint outcomes and each department having some ‘skin in the game’ by freeing up resources and skills, the larger organisational goal will not be achieved without collaboration.

If you have an issue with collaboration within your organisation, I can help. Please get in touch either by Email: philip@philipperry.com or by phone +44(0) 7597 674328

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