The benefits of collaborative work models increases the ability to save human energy, increase employee motivation and commitment, reduce staff turnover, and increases the ability to harness creativity and innovation. Those who can implement these new structures will be able to recruit and retain talent easier. This approach has been used in reducing WH&S issues in manufacturing and complex work environments, in implementing IT projects, aligning services e.g. in the financial and insurance industries, and as a first in Australia is being implemented in a Victorian Local Council.
The best way to describe these two models is by drawing an analogy with nature.
- Imagine migratory birds flying in V-formation. They have a lead bird setting the direction, but the lead is shared among the birds to preserve energy. Their triangular formation is energy efficient. Each bird flies without interfering with the other, but knows their place. And they are collaborating for the full distance. This is a non-hierarchical collaborative model where the manager and staff all take the lead as required depending on skill and expertise to complete the activity and achieve an organisational outcome.
- Imagine the flock of birds rising off the ground like one. They fly in no identifiable direction meandering through the sky until they settle in a new location. There is no apparent leadership and no conflict. Activity based work brings people with the required skills and expertise together to contribute the tasks needed to achieve a specific outcome. Like a flock of birds the people collaborate towards this destination. They leave when their function is fulfilled and join a new group.
Both collaborative models are emerging in Australia. The difference between the two is that the former reduces coordination of staff and requires self-coordinating activities, while the latter works well in an organisation with many projects or a need to work cross-functionally. Both draw stakeholders into the team to work towards the shared vision and goal through a shared plan and collaborative meetings. Both are adaptable to an uncertain future and rapid change.
Deep collaboration has specific requirements to function effectively including
- empowering others by sharing power and acknowledging each other’s authority;
- taking accountability to and consequences for personal performance;
- learning about different perceptions and adapting own perceptions;
- letting go of ego, self-interest and beliefs to work for the common good;
- values based decision making to create consistency for action; and
- articulating expected behaviours to create consistency in action.
Deep collaboration is a transformative business approach that takes time. To achieve deep collaboration there is a need to
- develop a values based leadership and workplace culture;
- revisit systems and processes to remove all barriers to collaboration;
- redesign workspaces and contact systems to create collaborative spaces rather than working in pods and cubicles.
Is your business suited? Is it ready? Are you ready?