Collaboration is today the Holy Grail of the firm, big or small. Fix collaboration and you are already half way to success. The modern organization functions with a collective brain where all human capital is accessible and useful regardless geographical or hierarchical boundaries. It is such important element, a key indispensable behaviour, that we have had a special focus since the early days of The Chalfont Project.
We argue that collaboration is the true competitive advantage for the new era. In light of this, we help you to improve the effectiveness of internal collaborations, by building strong cohesive teams.
Team building can be achieved in many ways, but crossing rivers, building bridges in the forest or climbing mountains is something that we won’t be able to help you to do. Aligning people in teams is not about convincing them about the merits of doing something by appealing to their common sense. It is about generating a deep understanding of the differences between all of us in the way we prefer to work and the way we make decisions or manage relationships. It’s about creating a common understanding, a common sense of purpose and a shared commitment to action. By cutting out what is irrelevant we focus on what we know will create a fast alignment, whether in M&A mode, during internal restructuring, or simply in the progression of existing teams.
In many transformation or restructuring programmes the emphasis is placed on new processes, systems and indeed structures and reporting lines. Very frequently the buck stops there with no provision for the most important and crucial aspect of any new structure: how will people work together. Behaviours are frequently found in the lost property department of so called change programmes.
Because sometimes we need to come to the rescue fast, we often use a powerful five-step process that addresses: contextual agreement, alignment of working styles, team chartering, rules of the game and non-negotiable behaviours. This is a way of increasing the effectiveness of the team regardless of its seniority or functionality.
We examine the ways in which people need to interact, handle information, make decisions and organize themselves, in order to determine individual preferences for working together. We create a ‘map of styles’ and examine the strengths/weaknesses of the team in performing the vital tasks needed for producing the team’s ‘product’. Team charter-ing is a very practical exercise that establishes unity of vision and purpose, as well as strong alignment of preferences and teamwork toward established goals. The team also defines, articulates and agrees on new, common, non-negotiable behaviours that they will adopt. Finally, a ‘New Project Anatomy’ (a map of a potential or existing project) is created using an alignment of the previous steps with organization strategy, creating a practical approach for getting the job done. This process can be scaled up simultaneously to many teams.
As you can see, no crossing rivers or arrow- shooting at targets involved. Still fun, but serious hard work.
Whilst ‘One Team’ ensures the working together of people in formal structures (the formal organization) ‘Mastering internal social networks’ focuses on the connectivity and collaboration within the more invisible informal organization. The ability to navigate the internal and informal social networks of connectivity and influence within your organization and beyond is today a core competence of the highest value.
Traditional management has focused on the ‘teamocracy’ regime, on the formal structures such as teams, committees and task forces, placing a great deal of effort and investment to create a solid, formal and visible organization. These formal strictures are today a baseline, a necessity, but by no means sufficient. A great deal of innovation, cross fertilization of ideas and spontaneous and highly efficient collaboration between people, takes place outside the formal structures. It uses the fluid social networks of connections and relationships which constitute the real oxygen of the organization. ‘Net-working’ has become even more important than ‘team-working’ but unlike the latter, management has little or no tradition in developing this competence other than in a rather superficial way. No wonder for many people ‘networking’ is just drinks after work!
This is an intervention to boost the capabilities and value of your informal networks without falling into the temptation of ‘managing them’ or domesticating those fluid conversations. Internal social networks (of connections and relationships) need to be nurtured and supported but traditional management lacks the tools to do this. We will assess the strength and weaknesses of your informal organization; we will map the essentials of these relationships and will design and implement a plan to support them.
The intervention is complemented when appropriate by two things: strategic advice on how to incorporate ‘ne-workers’ into your HR policies and the internal use of social media, particularly enterprise micro-blogging
The modern organization is obsessed with uniformity: one organization chart, one way of doing things, one reporting system, one set of teams. This is all done (mistakenly) on behalf of ‘one culture’. As a consequence you may end up running organizations in which all divisions and groups are treated in the same way. Everything feels the same, looks the same and smells the same. Yet all your organizational pieces may in reality be very diverse in aims, closeness to the customer, product life cycles, pace and styles of working or kinds of people. You may be sacrificing the richness of diversity on behalf of a more comfortable homogeneity: similar processes, similar reporting, similar structures, similar assessment. Management may have an illusion of control whilst everybody else suffers the discomfort of the straightjacket.
Your organization is a landscape of multiple collaborative spaces, each of which need to be crafted on their own merits. Some of them may need to work on a pretty loose arrangement, yet with a very tight sense of direction. Other parts may need to be run in a far tighter way. One reason why people do not tend to allow such diversity is for fear of increasing complexity in management. So we have organizations which often end up running to the tune of the lowest common denominator, stifling creativity in the areas where this should be high or being too loose in areas which need a very precise set of systems and processes. Parts of you organization where processes are naturally heavy will tend to crave for a more relationship style of environment, and those who are heavy in relationships are craving for ‘more structure and discipline’. Everybody feels a bit homesick.
We will bring to you a way to diagnose and map the different collaborative spaces in your organization. We will assess their balance and fit for purpose in the way they are run and will establish ways of correction (migration) when needed. We will help you to put in place the management and leadership capabilities to be able to host all different spaces without falling into the trap of rigid uniformity. We will guide and coach you to make the most of the diversity under one roof even if it takes you beyond your zone of comfort of uniformity and homogeneity. We will help you to deal with that. The result is an organization run with all the advantages of flexibility and all the safeguards of good governance.