Collaboration is all the rage in enterprise technologies. Whether it’s the latest “enterprise social network” or the newest feature of an established intranet provider or learning management system, technologies are promising to solve your organization’s collaboration ills by claiming to make collaboration easier, more efficient, and more fun.
Here’s the only problem: if your organization doesn’t cultivate and support collaboration without technology, then technology isn’t going to cultivate it for you. Collaboration software typically works great for the people who were already collaborative (and liked technology) without it, but isn’t likely to make collaborators out of the previously un-collaborative.
Collaboration succeeds where it is understood, promoted, and developed as a value and an expectation. It’s not an activity. It’s not a new technology.
Collaboration is a lot less something you do, and a lot more how you are with others and how that shapes the way you work with them (or not) toward common goals.
Organizationally, culture frames process; process necessitates tools; tools support process and reinforce culture (but cannot create either of them alone).
For it to be sustainable and meaningful in a work setting, collaboration needs to be:
STRATEGIC (Culture and Process) – It should be clear at all levels of your organization (at least where collaboration is key to performance) that collaboration is a critical strategy to achieve outcomes. It can’t be “nice-when-we-have-time.” If it’s strategic, it’s fundamental.
LEVERAGED (Process and Tools) – Assuming it is, in fact, strategic, collaboration must be part of the design of your organizational processes. It must be operationalized effectively such that it is part of everyday workflow, job expectations, and even evaluation measures.
MODELED (Culture) – Like anything, if the people “at the top” don’t “practice what they preach” then it’s hard to get strong buy-in from everyone else. Leadership must be intentional and overt in exposing when and how it leads through collaboration.
CELEBRATED (Culture and Process) – We celebrate each other in our work in both subtle and overt ways: the passing comment, the simple nod of a head, or a formal award. Each represents a celebration that promotes and reinforces organizational values. Collaboration needs to be celebrated in many ways and at all levels.
INVESTED IN (Process and Tools) – What we invest in shows what we value. What we implement well shows our commitment to our values. We can’t decide collaboration is important and never put the tools behind it. But, we also can’t just throw technology at it and proclaim “now we collaborate!”