Have you ever been in a situation where a leader dispensed with collaboration in the name of taking action? Conversely have you ever been in a situation where a leader let collaboration go on too long and never made a decision? It’s easy for leaders and organizations to go too far in these extremes because it seems that collaboration and action are diametrically opposed. A lot of people will admit collaboration is good, but say it slows things down and can produce bad decisions by committee. Yet prioritizing only action can often have leaders operating on a need to know basis, consolidating decision making only in themselves, and not giving the team a chance to process the decision. What is a company to do?
I think the answer is a mode of operating called collaborative action. It’s valuing collaboration while being biased towards action. It means making reasonable good faith attempts to collaborate but being organized, methodical, and maintaining aggressive timeframes for making the decision. Here are some tips on how to make it work:
Routine communication: When decisions pop up, it’s very important for everyone involved in the collaborative process to be operating from the same understanding of key metrics. If not, people can spend a lot of time arguing about the underlying justification of the decision versus the merits of the decision itself. Consistently working on clearly sharing metrics between business units and functions forms a shared understanding of the current business reality that facilitates collaborative action. Logical people all operating from the same set of information will come to a collaborative decision faster.
Relationships and trust: This idea of consistent sharing between business units and departments helps build up trusting relationships between different leaders. This trust also facilitates fast collaborative decision making because leaders are less likely to spend time questioning the motives of the other leaders. Lack of trust and political maneuvering is one of the reasons decisions either get slammed through by leaders or slowed way down, depending on the leadership style of the company. When politics is going on, some leaders will just override the group and make the call. Others will get stuck in the quagmire and never make the call. Consistently working on relationships and trust, however, will facilitate collaborative action because people will take facts and opinions at face value.
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