What is the value of collaboration?
In my last blog, we explored the definition of collaboration. I appreciate all of the interesting comments and suggestions. Keep them coming!
In this blog, I’d like to address my second observation about collaboration, and that is what’s its value? And, where should you focus?
When I speak to audiences, I sometimes ask, “Who thinks collaboration is a good thing to do?” Almost everyone raises their hand. But when I ask WHY should they do it, the answer is not as clear. The fact that the definition of collaboration can have so many meanings defining the value of collaboration really becomes complex. Since it means different things to different people so does determining the value proposition.
In its simplest form, the only reason any one of us should collaborate in any endeavor inside or outside our companies is to PRODUCE GREAT RESULTS! Yes, we are working together toward common goals or being an active member of a community with common interests, but in the end, the reason you should collaborate is all about producing results.
Now let’s address the second question. If you had a magic wand that could deliver effective collaboration across your enterprise, where would you focus? What areas would you want to collaborate most to produce the greatest results?
I would point the magic wand (I have to stop watching Harry Potter movies with my daughter) in these areas:
1. The customer – Focus on things to improve customer service and satisfaction. Things like global account management and cross-selling of products and services increase revenues and sales. By the way, effective collaboration can also uncover existing problems and define new opportunities.
2. Efficiency – (saving time/ money / decisions / process). A focus on improving the efficiency across your company can yield big results. Collaboration + Technology + Process = huge $$$$ savings. The focus on efficiency can cut across all functions to reduce time and increase effectiveness. The key is to focus on strategic initiatives that are critical to the company. In the case of Cisco, reducing the time it takes to complete acquisitions has significant value, is strategic to our business and provides us with a competitive advantage. Improving efficiency in our manufacturing process with our partners requires strong collaboration and provides huge results in reducing costs, manufacturing time, raw materials and can improve quality.
3. Innovation – This can benefit greatly by effective collaboration. Cross business unit collaboration, such as between engineering and marketing, can generate product innovations by combining existing assets to produce new products. The key is to leverage the assets of the entire company by knowing what expertise exists, where it’s located, and creating a culture that rewards this cross collaboration. A Proctor and Gamble product called White Strips is a collaborative effort between the bleach, toothpaste and the R&D division and has turned into a billion dollar plus business.
I believe collaboration will be a key characteristic of tomorrow’s successful companies. Those that leverage the technology, implement company-wide processes and governance, and build a culture of collaboration will benefit by delivering great results. Collaboration is no longer an option or a choice, it’s a matter of survival! I’ll leave you with a quote from Wikinomics author Don Tapscott: “Collaborate or perish”!
As always, I’d appreciate your views and comments. Keep an eye out for my next blog on how to do effective collaboration.