There are some areas in an organization that I believe will benefit the most from a collaboration focus such as product manufacturing and supplies.  The benefits achieved through collaboration and a focus on other areas within an organization will extend throughout both your own organization and across your partners’ organizations.  The power of collaboration comes from the cross functional and expanded reach that is provided through the soft benefits of collaboration including extended visibility and metrics to analyze and adjust performance indicators and performance drivers.  I think there are two key areas that will gain the most from collaboration; internal silos of functions within your own organization and external silos of functions from external organizations that interact with your own organization.

My suggestion of these areas may seem a little simplistic because afterall it focuses on the same challenge from two sides of the challenge, if you will its two sides to the same coin.  The counter argument however is that sometimes its the most simple challenge that creates the greatest obstacles to overcome.  I see the challenge of overcoming silos both internally and externally to be one of these challenges.  The method that I believe necessary to overcome the challenge of silos is in fact a third challenge that must be overcome to achieve and maintain success.  This method is the support and active participation of all levels of team members from the senior leadership to the line worker.  Without the support and active participation of all these levels, your chances of success in overcoming the internal and external silos will be greatly challenged and potentially impossible to achieve.

I will focus on the method to overcome the silos rather than the silos themselves.  I don’t believe I need to re-hash the challenges of the silos or the negative impact that these silos can have on an organization because its been covered so many times.  The important aspect for this discussion is the means to overcome the negative impact of the silos through collaboration.  Its really a very simple equation, or process, to achieve or deliver on collaboration; namely you must encourage the participation and engagement of the people across the silos and across the internal and external organizations.  While it is a very simple equation the execution of this equation can be extremely difficult.  The success of the execution requires some heavy lifting initially and will require a period of time with increased focus and support in order to prime the pump and ensure the acceptance and culture change required for the long term acceptance of the collaborative partnerships and breaking down the silos.

The keys to the success of this initiative is the support from senior management, both publicly and privately of the initiative, the acceptance and buy-in of the lower level employees in the organization (the line workers) and the commitment from senior management to act on the suggestions from the teams.  The commitment to act on the suggestions requires implementation of the suggestions.  This is where the miracle occurs; the acceptance of senior management is displayed through the implementation of the team suggestions and the implementation of the team suggestions encourages the team to develop new improvement suggestions.  Simple right?   

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have your started or are you in the midst of an institutional change initiative?  What are the key traits you have identified as required to support the initiative?  Have you contemplated the name or phrase for the person leading your initiative?