How deep is your company collaboration?


Companies are making huge invesments in technology and change efforts to break down silos. Yet aside from the a few stars of change, most efforts fail to achieve the full benefit of what was planned (they don’t necessarily “fail”).

An enterprise social network (or team-based chat tools) tends to be part of the planning.

Based on my experience, I think the problem lies in the top down-only nature of most change efforts. They are top-down and target the company as a whole. Take a look at this diagram above. Can you spot how you are trying to change things?

Most companies hope that shallow, broad-based efforts (top right) will be enough to change a company. Over time, especially as tech and consultancy sales stories go, you this will generate deeper collaboration through momentum. But it doesn’t really work like this.

For example, getting an enterprise social network and using it as a comms tool. Yes, there will be discussion about the business in general. A few hardy souls will speak their mindful thoughts. And a few leaders will join them. But in terms of generating business value from the change spend (IT, OD, Comms, Coaching, L&D) – the ROI (for want of a better term) isn’t there.

Moreover, in this scenario, the internal teams (IT, Comms, HR/L&D) don’t have to collaborate between themselves too deeply. In my experience, HR don’t necessarily jump on anything other than HR tech. IT are second most reluctant. Leadership Development doesn’t even incorporate the technology (hello IT OCM and HR L&D team – what’s going on?)! The goodwill and huge effort of (usually) a comms lead is wasted compared to what could be. How crazy is it that this is side-of-desk stuff?

To achieve lasting change, you need to focus on deep, narrow usage too. This will develop the awareness and skills to build a social business through deep collaboration (aided by the technology). This means working with groups and teams who want to try something different. At Kellogg’s, this is how I approached it – although this was also because of how my job was structured. I thought that narrow, deep collaboration was the best way to drive broad-based deep collaboration.

This isn’t “organic” although it helps with organic growth by building awareness and good stories. This requires meticulous planning and hard work to develop relationships across the business.

A hybrid approach is probably best. But this requires both great collaboration between internal departments. And it also freedom to experiment from those very same departments. I have not heard of many stories where this is true in enterprises.

Similarly, small companies and startups need to be mindful that they don’t regress as they grow. They might start with deep, broad collaboration. But it’s easy for collaboration to become silo’d – especially in startups aching to “build our their X function” or eager to have 20 VPs. Watch that culture as you grow.

We can help build collaboration and learning projects at the deep end that can complement your broader efforts. If you want to know how – inquisitive HR, Comms and IT types – contact us.