Why We Should Collaborate

 The theme at the May 2019 global strategy conference, sponsored by the Association for Strategic Planning, was collaboration. We spent two days discussing, sharing ideas around, and reviewing the advantages of a highly collaborative environment.  

We were all in agreement that collaboration is a critical element for any strategic plan and can dictate the likelihood of plan success. Yet, we were ALSO in agreement that many organizations persist in overlooking the importance of embracing teamwork in an effort to drive progress on initiatives and, ultimately, the strategy.  

Without embracing collaboration, your organization may be at risk of becoming a statistic. Research sponsored by the Brightline Initiative found that 9 of 10 organizations fail to meet their strategic goals. Although a number of elements may contribute to such failures, lack of collaboration is a common contributing factor.

In contrast, collaboration promises many benefits for the organization, driven in large part by the following related outcomes among staff:

•   Sense of Ownership and Accountability. Asking staff for their opinions, experiences, and ideas when building the strategic plan sends the message that the plan belongs not only to the leadership team, but to all staff members. The resulting sense of ownership, in turn, encourages staff to do their part to ensure the plan’s success. 

•   Commitment. Understanding how their contributions have been incorporated into the overall strategy effort increases the staff’s level of commitment to the related initiatives and goals and to the success of the overall effort itself.

•   Pride. Driving the organization closer to realizing its vision through their contributions to the related work engenders a send of pride among staff, especially when some of that work stems from an idea that they or one of their colleagues contributed.

•   Interest and Desire. Knowing that they are key to creating something new and better for the organization and, ultimately, for themselves and their colleagues fuels ongoing engagement and dedication among staff.

•   Loyalty. Soliciting and incorporating staff ideas, comments, and suggestions into the strategic plan or implementation plan holds the promise for increased loyalty to the organization. 

So how can you realize the benefits of collaboration in your organization? Here are a few ideas:

•   Engage. Chat staff up over coffee, create an internal intranet site, hold All Hands or team meetings. Find the ways that works best for your organization.

•   Invite. Ask for input on the strategy, initiatives, mission, goals, or implementation plan.

•   Question. Anyone and everyone. If you don’t understand or want to learn more, encourage questions. Establish a safe environment for asking questions.

•   Listen. Rather than listen, many people spend their quiet time in conversation preparing their rebuttal or, worse, comment while the other person is speaking. Are you listening? If not, the good news is that you can always get better. The first step is acknowledging the fact that you don’t listen.

•   Learn. From your staff, your colleagues, your manager, your vendors, and partners. Learn from interns, associates, and volunteers. No matter the organizational heights to which we’ve risen, continuous learning helps broaden our skills, our capabilities, and our overall value to ourselves and the organization.

Don’t be a statistic. Introduce and encourage collaborative efforts and activities in your organization to share experiences and ideas and drive initiatives.