and Ford announced a collaboration which was a ‘non-merger’. By doing this, they avoided the expense involved with mergers and acquisitions, that so often fail to deliver the promises the business case initially indicated. Tammy Erickson, Adjunct Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, considers that, "building an organisation’s collaborative capacity is an essential part of modern leadership". Some commentators, recognise that there are certain difficulties and challenges in doing this properly. In 2017, we explored - in conjunction with more than 60 organisations - what they saw as the potential pitfalls of collaboration and identifying first-hand experience of how to recognise these problems. What was clearly indicated was that the starting point must be a willingness to collaborate and understanding the strategic imperative for the collaboration. It’s so important to be very clear from the outset about what each side wants to achieve, and why, and then how collaboration will help to deliver on these objectives.

When there is an idea of what is desired from a collaboration, the next issue becomes finding partners. An obvious place to start is exploring internal networks. Who do your people know already? Then, actively seek out new networks, attend events or join forums - being active on business-related platforms like LinkedIn, is obviously a really good source for finding out about potential opportunities for new collaborations, building up connections and finding potential partners. There’s nothing better to start building trust than a collaboration or partner that has come to you through a personal recommendation - indeed, waiting until potential partners approach you is likely to result in a slow start. Once a partner for collaboration has been identified, then some really honest conversations need to take place and these early stage discussion really need to define what both parties want from the collaboration, and finding mutual benefits is key. Identifying what is being sought from the collaboration on both sides is essential, even if the detail can’t be finessed in the really early stages, a vision can be shared. Then together you can start to deliver specific goals that benefit all parties. This is an opportunity; a synergistic effort for working with new people from different backgrounds and sectors, something that can provide new perspectives and mutual learning. In this day and age of dynamic and agile business set-ups, such relationships can lead towards new goals, ones that are unique to the collaboration. It’s not all plain sailing though, collaborations can often start enthusiastically but, as they develop, problems may emerge and the collaboration stalls - which is known as collaborative inertia. One of the themes that regularly crops up is the importance of trust. It’s imperative to commit to evolving and building trust; it doesn’t happen automatically. It’s a well-worn cliché but it’s true; trust has to be earned, and is based on the; reliability, the integrity and the belief of the partners who are working together.




Collaborations can be formed with the best of intentions, but if they are not delivered and the partners are not reliable, the trust is broken, and the collaboration will fail. Partners will rarely be evenly matched - in terms of size and capacity for collaboration - so, it’s important to consider how the balance of power in a partnership interacts with the pursuits of the aims and objectives. If there are big partners and small partners, this obviously has an effect on the dynamics and influence each can have. Discussing the relationship and recognising the size and capacity of each partner is extremely important, in terms of building trust and should happen from the beginning, when setting the initial goals of the collaboration. Here, a clear communication plan is invaluable, as you don’t want to overload communications, and knowing who you speak to about certain aspects is important, as is who needs to know everything and who only needs to know certain things. So, creating openness and transparency is essential - and having secrets or withholding certain facts from important people can quickly inhibit the possibility of a successful collaboration.


How has the increase in autonomy and remote working impacted on collaboration within your organisation?

23% Negative 77% Positive

The objectives driving a collaboration rarely align neatly with the individual objectives of the organisational partners. This means partners need to be adaptable, flexible and compromise. The success of a collaboration can be gauged if there is absolute clarity of what success looks like, at different stages of the collaborative journey, and how that success is measured and communicated. Measures don’t always have to be quantitative, as qualitative data gives richer insights into, for example, the levels of trust and how people talk about the collaboration is very important. If there’s divergence between the stated collaboration aims and the individual organisation goals, then make sure that’s discussed and be explicit about it upfront. It may look as if the collaboration hasn’t been successful but knowing and understanding this difference is important. Build these approaches into the modus operandi of the collaboration, talk about shared objectives, trust and whether one partner is taking the collaboration in a direction that the other partner, or partners, are not comfortable with. Collaborations are about so much more than teamwork. It is not simply a group of people who work together with a single goal in mind. Attention needs to be paid to how organisations fit together, how different people at different levels, with different functions within an organisation will work together. There are, of course, many different formulas to having a successful collaboration, but all require; shared goals, trust, clear communications, an idea of the balance of power and mutual respect for each party’s knowledge and expertise.


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MAY 2019 | thehrdirector | 29

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