Monthly Archives: February 2012

Barriers to Collaboration

As more executives look to collaborate to gain value across their organization and not just within individual silos in the organization, it is important to review the most common barriers for collaboration.

Dr. Morten T. Hansen was interviewed for The Collaboration Imperative and spoke about his research on this subject.

He boiled it down to four common barriers for collaboration:

  • Not Invented Here” mentality – and the resulting lack of motivation to collaborate.
  • Hoarding of information
  • Lack of ability to search information
  • Lack of ability to transfer information

When defining a strategy to overcome these barriers, it is important to use the right weapon on the right barrier.

The first two barriers are more cultural in nature, and are best overcome through changes to compensation and cultural norms.  Both changes come as a result of leaders setting the example of the desired behavior.

The “Not Invented Here” mindset can be overcome with compensation tweaks.  For instance, instead of focusing a sales VP with only metrics related to sales, incent their behavior with metrics that tie them to performance in other related areas (i.e., an “On Time Orders” KPI for a manufacturing organization).  This sets the leadership requirement to work outside of their silos, which in turn increases the strength of the overall business and embeds the need for collaboration into the culture.

When looking to attack a hoarding mindset, it is important to start with the basics.  Are there real barriers to sharing of information such as concerns about confidentiality for sensitive information?  I’ve worked with organizations that would not share information outside of the department for fear of that information being leaked to the public or their competition.  For both real legal and compliance and perceived legal or compliance issues, it is crucial to set up clear rules on what information CAN and SHOULD be shared.

The ability to search information is related to the technology or toolsets in use.  Enabling enterprise-wide search of shared documents and e-mail distribution lists is a good start.

Transferring or sharing information is also a technology capabilities issue; however, for seamless transferring and sharing of information, new toolsets should be considered.  Specifically, toolsets that allow sharing of all types of content and discussion, feedback, and prioritization of that content based on an individual’s preferences should be considered.  Cisco Quad is a toolset that allows for simplified information transfer AND excellent search capabilities.

Consider also that you will most likely not face one barrier, but a combination of barriers that need to be dealt with accordingly.

Clearly identifying the barriers should be the first step.

Figuring out which weapon to use to overcome the barriers — and in what order — comes next.

I fired a customer today

I fired a customer today.
And by “I” I actually mean a gutsy account manager who is my new hero.

This isn’t the type of behavior you hear much about in sales – especially highly competitive technical sales.
You hear lots about organizations who fire a vendor, companies that fire their employees, and individuals that fire their lawyers. Not too much about resellers/partners firing a customer.
Especially at a “closing” meeting for the start of a thousand+ phone deployment.

What this account manager knows however, is that just because money is going in our direction for the transaction does NOT mean we are the one receiving more value or benefit in the transaction.

We charge for our services precisely because they provide value and are outside of a customer’s core business or competencies – exactly how I would hire an architect to design and plan a house.  I don’t want to learn building code (best practices), fire prevention (security), space aesthetics (user interface) – I have a day job!  I just need someone to bring their expertise and walk me through the process, get my decisions and input, and design a house for me.

We also guarantee success and eliminate risk as I outlined on a previous post.

Our customers are selected based on a mutual understanding of our value. The potential
customer that was fired right before signing up with us simply did not understand the mutual benefit of the relationship. I have several customers I’ve worked with for 8+ years who understand the benefit of a long-term relationship where money most often flows one direction, but value is absolutely expected (and delivered) in two directions.

Bonus tip for AM’s – if you want to win the adoration and support of your support and delivery teams – ensure you are SELECTING customers for your organization not because you are desperate for commissions but because there is a mutual understanding of the value both parties bring to the transaction and hopefully long-term relationship.

Do you have customers or vendors that don’t understand the critical need for continued and bi-directional value in a technical consulting relationship?  Tell me – what level of value do you expect from your vendors/resellers/partners?

The Collaboration Imperative

I just finished Integrity by Dr. Henry Cloud and  started reading “The Collaboration Imperative – Executive Strategies for Unlocking Your Organization’s True Potential” by Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese.

First – thank you to the Collab Partner Summit team for the autographed copy!

I’m really excited to digest the content in this book especially after reading the Executive Summary on p16 that articulates my strong belief better than I’ve been able to. It reads:

Improved Collaboration represents your best opportunity to tap the full range of talents of your people, move with greater speed and flexibility, and compete to win over the next decade.

Building a collaborative organization requires a transformative approach to culture, process and technology – along with an unwavering  commitment from top to bottom. If you foster a culture that encourages collaborative  behaviors, put processes in place to help people work better together and adapt technologies that facilitate collaboration, your efforts will be rewarded with an energized organization that can adapt quickly to changing markets and deliver results.

While I feel that is an excellent summary, I wanted to touch on a couple points from my perspective.

1.  “the next decade” – This underlies what I feel people (especially those who are paid commission on a SKU) forget.  Collaboration is not a light switch that I can install into an organization.  It is a platform (as a smart guy who pretends to not be a smart guy I work with says).  Furthermore, it is a culturally enabled (or disabled) platform.  If your culture is a fit for collaboration from day 1 then great.  If it is not a fit day 1, then there needs to be a process in place to till the soil of your organization’s culture to make it ready to sow the seeds – and ultimately reap the benefits of collaboration.

2.  “unwavering commitment from top to bottom” – I can’t say how true this is.  I don’t need to – Ricci and Wiese are more traveled and wiser than I – and they say it (so there!)  Collaboration within an organization will fail as a grassroots skunkworks project.  It needs to be a commitment to the culture, process, and tools that enable collaboration from the top down.

My closing thought is actually touched on later in the chapter – collaboration is a years long initiative (I would project 1-5 years depending on the existing culture to really get it going).  Once it gets going however, it will pick up steam until the organization is transformed.  If you get started too late on this you are going to be WAY behind your competition, and they will only pick up steam and get further ahead – and more able to connect with and serve your former customers.  Get started now.