The script has changed.
No matter where we live or how we earn a living,
we face a significant shift in our personal and professional
lives—the transition to the Culture of Collaboration.
Let’s face it. The shift is happening
all around us. And it’s impacting our work styles, our
paychecks, our relationships and our habits. In short, the
transition is changing our world. So understanding the
implications is key to staying in the game and succeeding.
At work, information used to arrive in our
in-baskets, later in our email in-boxes. We received instructions
and passed them to others. Somebody else had to do their part
before we could do ours. Then we tossed our work product to
the next person so that they could fulfill their function.
We were running relay races rather than creating and producing
in concert with colleagues.
The in-box culture is dead. It’s no
longer acceptable to let work and requests for decisions languish
in email. The quest for value creation has forced the deserialization
of work. Simply put, we are curbing the pass-along approach.
Receiving a document or spreadsheet, making notes, and sending
it to somebody else for their comments slows decisions
and complicates resolution. To solve problems and make
decisions efficiently, we must often come together in real
time rather than wait for the email, the file, or for somebody
SHORTCOMINGS OF STAR CULTURES
Toyota’s culture provides a stark contrast to many organizational
cultures that value internal competition. In such cultures,
colleagues may view being collaborative as a weakness. In The
Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin writes about natural
selection in which the fittest survive. Many competitive organizational
cultures apply a similar concept to workforce development.
So that the best rise to the top, a company may eliminate the
bottom performing 15 percent of its workforce. Out the door
along with the underperformers is trust. Such cultures often
pit one colleague against another in that a manager may
ask two or more people to prepare proposals. The manager then
picks the best one.
In such cultures, fear dominates as people worry
whether their names appear on the elimination lists or whether
they can beat out colleagues for recognition and promotion.
Such star cultures reward individualism rather than collaboration.
Why would you trust Joe and share your ideas with him? He will
steal your concepts so that he can get promoted over you. Such
cut-throat cultures often extend beyond the enterprise to relations
with business partners. Without understanding the need for
partners to succeed, companies with competitive cultures may
negotiate too aggressively and therefore sacrifice partner
THE DYNAMIC DIMENSION
OF CROSS-CULTURAL COLLABORATION
Bridging cultural gaps creates a dynamic dimension perhaps unattainable
with homogenous groups of collaborators. Diversity of cultures produces broader
perspectives that give collaborators an edge, particularly in solving complex
engineering problems. Team members trained in one country’s aerospace
engineering tradition may view a creative challenge completely differently
than their colleagues who were trained in a different country’s system.
Drawing from their collective global knowledge, cross-cultural collaborators
can spark synergies and create greater value. The trick is to build trust and
bridge the cultures so that collaborators can benefit from their differences
rather than fail because of them.
LIFESTYLES AND WORK STYLES
Some mobile workers spend most of their day in motion and
part of their day at a desk. Others could be classified as
deskless workers. These people often work on the front lines
providing care, tabulating damages at disaster scenes, photographing
news, responding to crimes, or assembling the products on which
a company stakes its reputation. Deskless and mobile workers
can effectively collaborate only if the approach and tools
fit into their work styles. Expecting people to abandon their
work to collaborate makes little sense. But it’s in the
best interests of organizations to include the input of mobile
workers in collaborative endeavors. After all, they’re
often the people who have insight from the front lines. Rather
than make process decisions in a vacuum, smart organizations
encourage deskless and mobile workers to collaborate with people
across functions, departments, levels, and regions. This means
making it easy to participate in synchronous and asynchronous
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS
INFORMATION DEMOCRACY AND THE CULTURE OF COLLABORATION
The concept of information democracy and access to data occurs
repeatedly in organizations with collaborative cultures.
Access is about sharing, one of the Ten Cultural Elements
of Collaboration. While companies clearly must safeguard
their data from competitors and interlopers, they nevertheless
must share data with all of the people who participate in
data-driven processes. By sharing information and data, companies
promote innovation and collaboration. Policies that overly
restrict access to data can foster a culture that rewards
secrecy and internal competition. In such cultures, information
INTEGRATING COLLABORATIVE TOOLS
PUTTING PRINCIPLES BEFORE TOOLS
Too often organizations introduce collaboration approaches,
processes and tools without linking them to organizational
principles. This confuses users and stalls integration into
work styles. In hierarchical, internally-competitive cultures,
organizational principles may run contrary to the free flow
of information that collaborative tools often encourage.
This presents a significant cultural divide. People can accept
changes in work styles more readily if they understand that
those changes are based on tenets that they have already
accepted. We are more likely to create value through collaborative
approaches and tools if we perceive that the tools reflect
the collective personality of the organization.
LEADERSHIP IN HYBRID CULTURES
On the spectrum between collaborative and command-and-control
cultures is the hybrid culture. This is one in which a collaborative
culture pervades particular functional areas, regions, or
business units, while other areas tend towards a “me” rather
than a “we” culture. This scenario often
occurs in companies that have extensive scientific or research
and development operations. A prime example is the pharmaceutical
industry. In the case of the unnamed Fortune 50 pharmaceutical
company discussed in chapter 8, the organization experiences
cultural schizophrenia in that its scientific community embraces
collaboration far more than other areas of the company. However,
economic exigencies are forcing the broader organization
to adopt a culture that mirrors that of the scientific units.
Hybrid and transitional cultures present leadership
challenges and provide insight into the disconnection
between people accustomed to traditional verses collaborative
approaches. Leaders in the scientific arena sometimes
focus more on debate, discussion and achieving consensus. When
conditions change, those leaders are quick to revisit decisions.
However, this approach seems like indecisiveness to leaders
in finance, IT, manufacturing and other areas of the company.
According to the Fortune 50 pharmaceutical CTO, “For
most of the rest of the business, we need to make decisions
and get on with life. Otherwise you’re paralyzed by the
continuous revisiting, so the leadership in the purely scientific
area is much more iterative.”