Lynda Gratton and Tamara Erickson have written a compelling article for those of us who believe that 'we are smarter than me' and that collaboration on a large scale is critical to enterprise success. Gratton's work is first rate. I really enjoy her thinking and her understanding of the real roots of enterprise success. Her book on the Democratic Imperative, a little formal in tone, introduced the idea of the knowledge worker as investor, someone who goes to work everyday and makes the implicit decision on whether or not to 'invest' themselves fully in the work they have to do. Her new book on Hot Spots examines the roots of innovation and how high creative collaboration separates the high performing enterprise from all the rest. Read her work if you are serious about building innovative, adaptable teams and organizations. What follows are my summary notes on her recent article in the November, 2007 issue of the Harvard Business Review.
THE LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE: How do executives strengthen an organization's capability to collaborate effectively to solve complex organizational challenges - faster, better and smarter. The business environment frequently has inherently complex issues that require quick, urgent responses, under conditions of high pressure with large teams of 100 or more. These teams have to work together - often virtually or online, from 3 or more different locations to think through complex tasks that require depth and breadth of experience.
Strengthening an organization's capability for collaboration requires a combination of long term investments - in building trust and relationships, in developing a culture where leaders are role models of cooperation - and smart, near term decisions about the way teams are formed, roles defined and challenges and tasks are articulated.
Gratton and Erickson's research on 15 multi-nationals and 55 large teams showed surprising results. Using statistical analysis, considering more than 100 factors, they isolated 8 factors that consistently contributed to success, where teams worked more productively and innovatively. The 8 factors are grouped into four categories:
Factor #1: Executive Support
Top executive philosophy is a crucial success factor to collaboration, where these executives collaborate among themselves, invest in building social relationships and create what the authors call a 'gift culture' in high quality relationships.
- Investing in signature relationship practices
- Modeling collaborative behaviour
- Creating a gift culture (helping people create vital information networks)
Factor #2: Focused HR Practices
The type of reward system used for team or individual achievement had little or no discernible effect on complex teams productivity and innovation. Two key practices did make a difference - training in skills of collaborative behaviour and support for informal community building.
- Ensuring the Requisite Skills
- Supporting a Strong Sense of Community
Factor #3: The Right Team Leaders
- Assigning Leaders both Task and Relationship-oriented
Factor #4: Team Formation and Structure
- Building on Heritage Relationships
- Understanding Role Clarity and Task Ambiguity