Aaron McEwan: Collaboration
We take a strong position that collaboration is vital to performance because of the way work is done in today’s interconnected, geographically diverse workforce.
In a world where we’re asking people to do things now and have it done yesterday, many organisations fear collaboration will draw things out. Collaboration is only slow when people need to seek advice from their superiors. You speed the process by giving them decision-making power rather than deferring up the chain.
Board directors and CEOs aim for 20-27 per cent lift in performance. Organisations that can maximise individual performance, which is task-execution, can lift performance to eight to 10 per cent, at best. It just isn’t enough to get the sort of breakthrough performance required. Most of that additional performance is going to come through employees collaborating and working more efficiently across the network.
The highest performing employees in the business have what we call enterprise contribution: they are effective at individual tasks, but they’re also effective at network performance, which is working with and through other people. Those organisations that have high percentages of enterprise contributors can lift their profits by up to 12 per cent. It’s a huge advantage for organisations to encourage their employees to collaborate more effectively.
Nina Mapson Bone: Autonomy
Collaboration is great but there are certain situations when autonomy is better. There are three specific examples where I would encourage autonomous working. The first is if we are looking for really innovative or creative solutions to problems. Sometimes working collaboratively leads to group think or people aligning themselves to the most senior person in the team. Instead, what you want to do is provide people with the undisturbed creative space to go deep in order to come up with those innovations.
The second scenario is if there are specific targets or measurements that need to be done. Collaboration potentially kills the ability of an individual to achieve the requirement of their own role. An individual may get pulled into collaborative processes such as committees that, although they are important to the business as a whole, are counterproductive to an individual achieving their own target.
The third scenario is when collaboration is allowed to go on too long. We use a model here called Debate, Decide, Make Up, Move On. The debate part is collaborative but then it’s important to allow the individuals autonomy to go and do the tasks they are assigned.
Collaboration gets over-emphasised a great deal. It’s almost unfashionable to say how important autonomy is these days, but it’s awfully important to how we conduct business.
This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the June 2015 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘For or against?’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.