How to make your collaboration resilient

For collaboration to count it needs to produce the desired outcome. And the real measure of any serious outcome is how much of an impact it creates. This inevitably puts pressure on managers to ensure that the impact they produce holds water and thus the need to consider the resilience of the collaboration? As a process, collaboration is susceptible to all manner of obstacles, failures and disruptions; proportionately more so if the challenge is complex and/or involves a large number of partners.

The adaptive ability of the collaboration strategy matters. Being able to improvise, for instance, is critical for the collaboration process to bounce back after it goes through a difficult period. People get tired, lose motivation or get into conflicts. Relying on magic to happen or putting faith in one person to solve the problem is less likely to work. What matters in these situations is the quality of the collaborative strategy. A good strategy will account for resilience as a critical feature of the performance of people in a collaborative setting. Now, it is really smart to make one particular connection between resilience and collaboration. Both these business features are in fact about competitive advantage. It has already been made clear to many business leaders, analysts, educators and strategists that resilience in business goes far beyond business continuity and risk management. It has become clear, for at least the last fifteen years or so, that business resilience is first and foremost about competition. Collaboration has now also emerged as a competition paradigm, although it should be noted that, unlike resilience, collaboration is equally about both intra- and inter-organisational practice.

To put this into a broader strategic context, it helps if we remember the almost legendary dictum by Gary Hamel, one of the best in the business, who made it clear that strategy has to be about knowing what the market will look like in the future and ensuring that business can suit those conditions. Taking this into the context of disruptive environments, the task is even harder and thus more important. Realistically, it is hard to figure this out; how many businesses really grasp the future? But, the collaborative strategy can be a mediating way forward. Collaborating with your partners and equally so with competitors was not the norm in the past, but is considered almost borderline amateurish not to do it now.

What matters in terms of resilience in business activity is that leaders be brutally honest about the position they are in. Resilience does not work if the first step is overlooked: i.e. being realistic! This is easier said than done. Every enterprise is a corporate body that is not easy to manage, mainly because people are vastly different in terms of their own resilience and their understanding of business resilience. This is major point of concern for any collaborator; knowing how resilient the partner agency (or single individual) is. Collaboration with multiple agencies is entrepreneurial by default, so to ignore factors such as a collaborator’s resilience only adds fuel to the fire, to say the least. Remember, collaboration is about diligent and strategic matching of capacities, bound together by a shared interest. Taking a risk is not the same as ignoring due diligence, such as ensuring a compatible partnership. When an enterprise chooses to collaborate with another business it should not be a ‘sea change’ exercise; rather it should be a careful, strategy driven evolution where the aim is to gain competitive advantage in the marketplace.


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