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  • Writer's picturesabina strachan

What will enable collaboration? Part 2: Recognition and reinforcement...

How do you make collaborative culture a norm? A leader needs to push through the cynicism they often encounter and resist pressure to revert to old habits. In this blog we revisit CEO ‘Sarah’ as she tries to find positive approaches to embed new ways of working at ‘A-Z Engineering’.

Now six months into her new role, two initiatives Sarah had introduced to improve collaborative working to find new solutions to drive sales had been rolled out. These were: A) creating ‘learning communities’ to share mistakes and issues and workshop solutions, and B) changing project set up to create more diverse project teams. Sarah wanted to know how teams were responding to these ideas and whether it was starting to change working practices. She was getting push back from two of her senior management team: Robert thought that the processes were time-consuming and less efficient and Zoe didn’t think that the sales figures were improving fast enough.

She decided she needed to gather some observations and data. She tasked user researcher Sonja to review the practices, and report back on whether A) people felt more able to highlight mistakes and work together on solutions and B) project teams were being formed of people with more diverse skills and experiences.

Over the next few weeks Sonja gathered quantitative data on take up across A-Z, researched the process individuals went through creating learning communities and putting new teams together, observed community and project team meetings, and conducted qualitative interviews with participants and non-participants.

The results were encouraging, with good levels of engagement and willingness to try out the new approaches. However, Sonja found notable issues in two departments:

  1. Fewer learning communities had been instigated by members of one department. Individuals felt that it wasn’t a completely safe environment to share failings as one manager’s tendency to apportion ‘blame’ seemed to prevail into those settings, and

  2. The makeup of project teams led by another department had widened, but only by the addition of a small number of individuals whilst the core team seems to remain static. Some colleagues were becoming reluctant to respond to calls to join these teams as they weren’t confident that their contributions would be equally valued.

Sarah decided to take the following steps:

  1. Make success measures firmly based on observed behaviour change as a driver of company health – including income – and ensure expectations are shared at senior level

  2. Share, celebrate and reward great individual and team success already achieved and model the new working practices at senior level

  3. Provide dedicated, facilitative support for the new working practices to ensure approaches were followed appropriately to build trust between colleagues and departments

  4. Regular and transparent reviews of existing practices and new ways of working to ensure any and all shifts in the company’s practices reinforced a collaborative culture

Sarah’s approach was to engage sensitively and positively with the challenges and build trust and understanding. She would ‘walk the walk’ and model the new values, transform ‘what success looks like’ at A-Z, and recognise and reward positive behaviours helping change beliefs and enable collaborative culture to flourish.

Next time, the glu blog will tackle “what does it take to create a ‘collaborative environment’ working with dispersed, hybrid or virtual groups?”


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