This two-part article is a synopsis of the book The Culture of Collaboration by Evan Rosen. This post is written by guest author Sham Karandikar (my dad) - who has been active in the field of Information Technology longer than I've been living.
The world is changing at an ever-increasing rate. New technology has changed our lifestyle completely. It was not very long ago that the concept of Teleconferencing was beyond our imagination. But now you can chat, discuss and seek opinions from others all over the world as easily as you can from the person in the next office. At the same time, the world is getting so compressed that many corporations have become multinational - some of them operate in over 30 countries. In this situation, adopting a collaborative approach is imperative in order to get total involvement from employees located all over the world
This change is explained very well in the book, The Culture of Collaboration: Maximizing Time, Talent and Tools to Create Value in the Global Economy, by Evan Rosen. The book not only focuses on the theory of collaboration, but also provides lots of live examples to back it up.
The book explains how globalization has created unprecedented opportunities for maximizing resources. Realizing these opportunities however, requires a cultural shift. For example, the changing economics of the automobile industry required faster concept-to-delivery cycles; in response, BMW determined that tele-cooperation was the best way to achieve that goal. Thus, globalization is driving changes to business models, in order to maximize benefits by introducing the culture of collaboration. The name of the game in this changed world is real-time: shorten product development cycles, reduce response times, enhance interconnectivity and enable the free flow of ideas among global partners.
- The Mayo Clinic was founded on the principle of collaboration. The book spends some time exploring this use case. For example, the Mayo Clinic has already implemented a satellite-based video conferencing network; for each new case, the coordinating doctor immediately assembles a geographically distributed team to evaluate the problem. Because of its track record, and a culture that embraces collaboration, Mayo is experiencing soaring demand.
- Toyota is another company that has exported a collaborative culture: make decisions slowly by consensus. Toyota's culture provides a stark contrast to many organizational cultures that value internal competition; such as Enron, which hired and rewarded only the very best and brightest, and is now in bankruptcy. Internal competition delivers results in the short term but collaboration builds long term value. One outcome is that Toyota has a stable workforce, which is a significant competitive advantage.
- The Dow Chemical Company, which creates value through collaboration, was perhaps the first company of its size to conduct all of its video conferencing over a Converged IP network. Called Dow-Net, it introduced i-Rooms and digital white boards that let users in 43 countries connect via Polycom video conferencing equipment to any Dow site while collaborating on applications and data.
- Proctor & Gamble has embraced spontaneous interaction since the company first made instant messaging available to employees in 2000. P&G employees increasingly connect with each other in real-time so that ideas fly and team members concurrently make better, quicker decisions.
- The World Bank is comprised of 10,000 employees from 184 countries, who provide loans and share knowledge globally. To help developing nations deal with globalization, the World Bank encourages collaboration among globally dispersed staff. Building trust is a critical success factor in effective collaboration. Drawing on their global knowledge, cross-cultural collaborators can spark synergies and create greater value.
Within organizations, barriers develop among departments and functions. Marketing develops its own culture but has difficulty in interacting with sales. Product Management and Engineering disagree over product direction and avoid interaction. There was a time when many organizations refused to give employees Internet access because of fears that people would surf the web instead of work - yet another manifestation of an archaic Command & Control approach. Most organizations now realize that blocking such access interferes with information flow and idea generation. Encouraging interaction among people with common interests reinforces cross-functional collaboration.
Taking the example of the Mayo Clinic, perhaps the most important role the SPARC unit plays is to break down the barriers among functions. Because of its methodology for innovation and a physical environment that encourages brainstorming, SPARC consistently succeeds in cross-functional collaboration. The convergence of voice, data and video over IP has forced people, who previously had little or no contact, to collaborate.
Another trend enabling collaboration and breaking down barriers is the implementation of common processes and systems throughout the organization. For example, the use of common processes and systems allows Boeing to easily move people from one aircraft program to another and to share tasks.
Thus the culture of collaboration dissolves the barriers of time and distance, delivers awesome results and creates value. Deriving these benefits, however, requires an understanding of both the potential and the limitations of the tools involved.
Continued in Part II.