True global companies go well beyond marketing, selling and supporting their wares worldwide. They design, assemble and produce both products and services concurrently around the world. Today's Global Collaborative Enterprise (GCE) is a collection of inter-dependent companies that engage in the shared creation of value, often in real-time. The GCE exploits time zones and global work-sharing to design, assemble and create products and services 24 hours a day.
For example, Boeing has re-invented itself as a global collaborative enterprise which includes the supply chain, customers and even the customer's customers (i.e. airline passengers). Boeing's largest multi-media room in Everett - where employees can participate in video and web conferences and share 3-dimensional CAD/CAM software - is named the Global Collaboration Center. Moscow, for instance, is almost exactly on the other side of the world from Everett, with a time difference of 11 hours; so, when Everett is sleeping, Moscow works; and vice versa.
Types of Collaboration
Collaboration can be classified into three types, based on the level of interaction among the participants:
- Low-level: Involves exchanging information through threaded text discussions, video conferencing, web conferencing and document-sharing.
- Mid-level: Involves a more elaborate collaboration tool set, that allows companies to share information with external organizations via the web. These organizations may be partners on some projects and competitors on others.
- High-level: Involves designing parts, plans, tools and processes concurrently among global partners.
High-level collaboration is truly the highest form of sharing. At Toyota, product designers, manufacturing specialists and business partners connect globally through its visual and virtual communications system, which reduces cycle time, enhances product quality and boosts production efficiency. Toyota now manufactures vehicles at over 50 sites in 26 countries and must bridge many regional cultures as engineers collaborate.
Boeing and Toyota are setting the standard in the aerospace and automobile industries respectively, utilizing the best talent regardless of location.
As the culture of collaboration permeates work and life styles, our habits are changing faster than we realize. While asynchronous interaction has its place, collaboration is increasingly rich, real-time and spontaneous. Increasingly, businesses are rejecting bureaucracy as wasteful and costly. In contrast to red tape and a serial approach, we create greater value when we engage one another directly, design products concurrently and collaborate across functional, business unit, corporate and regional boundaries. The current economic trend is to exploit the best talent at the best price, regardless of geography. The clear lesson from Toyota, Boeing, Dow Chemicals, Mayo Clinic, Proctor & Gamble and other organizations is that good decisions include the perspective of people throughout the organization at every level. The necessity of maximizing time, talent and tools in the global economy gives the culture of collaboration an edge. The quest to innovate and create greater value drives the desire to collaborate as organizations embrace the global collaborative Enterprise.
This point - that the global collaborative enterprise has to design, assemble and create products and services concurrently around the world - is explained very well in Evan Rosen's book. Following the lessons of the leading corporations described in the many examples in this book is essential in order to survive and thrive in the economy of the future; I highly recommend this book. Good Luck.