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.

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