Dr Britt Andreatta, former Chief Learning Officer for LinkedIn Learning (previously Lynda.com) and consultant to Fortune 500 companies considers collaboration to be an essential skill. In her book Wired To Connect, Dr Andreatta argues that “Collaboration is a vital necessity for the success of today’s organisation and yet it is probably the least understood skill.”. It is that focus on skills that informed the development of a series of ROADMENDER Consultancy webinars which focus on helping people to achieve their best results.
One of these sessions, ‘Unlocking the Key to Collaboration’ (see full video recording on our ‘workshops + webinars + forums’ page) was recently delivered to professionals across diverse agencies sharing a common goal and interest in working with landholders and agricultural producers keen to improve their sustainability while managing a demanding set of market forces. Key areas of the webinar were driven by the idea that collaboration skills, which can be considered ‘soft skills’, are nonetheless indispensable in complex environments.
It has been acknowledged that people who tend to collaborate are not just likely to be more productive and engaged, but also healthier and happier in the workplace. Successful collaboration depends on a range of important building blocks such as knowing how to set clear expectations, how to balance team goals against individual goals, and how to leverage each team member’s individual strengths.
It is also clear to many who collaborate in the workplace that collaboration cannot be sustained without strategic drivers that provide a stimulating platform for those willing to collaborate. Hence the importance of a clear strategy that takes into consideration evidence supporting collaboration as the best way of creating value, solving complex problems, and innovating new solutions.
Many of the webinar participants observed that barriers vary in their complexity. Some can be as simple as communication and language barriers, while others can be more complex such as a lack of trusting relationships, and negativity from past conflicts between teams/organisations. One of the major takeaways was that relationships are only one part of the foundation for building collaboration success. The other part is the clarity infused into the overall aim of any collaboration effort and the governance that helps teams navigate through obstacles that are inevitable in any long-running project/program.
One of the central messages of the webinar is the idea of a disciplined approach to planning. This means that, regardless of past experiences, when teams/organisations have a clear goal in sight and understand how much more effective they can be when they embrace collaboration as part of business strategy, they can negotiate an approach that will rebuild trust and benefit all involved.
It is also worth noting that collaboration cannot succeed in a vacuum. Support and resources are vital. ROADMENDER recommends conducting a simple and effective analysis before every project to clearly identify benefits after the cost of collaboration is taken into consideration. At times it may appear that not enough resources have been allocated to sustain the collaborative effort – but truly dedicated teams can start a collaboration with next to no means. Being able to innovate and continue building with few resources can be a surprising way of attracting additional resources. While each collaboration has its own distinct flavour in terms of relationships and goals, they all have similar obstacles. And the best way to overcome these is to maintain focus on two things; collaboration is a skill that is easy to learn but difficult to master, and remember why you are collaborating in the first place.