Organizational culturePerformance Management

Culture and Collaboration – Challenging the Status Quo

Culture and Collaboration

In the realm of organizational discourse Culture and Collaboration stand as two towering subjects, engaging collective attention.

The intricacies of a system’s behavior and performance stem directly from its structural composition. This principle extends seamlessly to organizations, intricate systems in their own right. Few would dispute the notion that Culture serves as the structural backbone of a social system, be it an organization or an enterprise.

Thus, the profound impact of culture on an organization’s behavior and performance becomes undeniable. However, let us momentarily set aside this realization.

Collaboration, often hailed as a mindset, manifests when individuals willingly share their expertise, ideas, and experiences, transcending departmental, hierarchical, and organizational boundaries. This altruistic endeavor, fueled by inner drive, empathy, and a shared goal, defines the essence of collaboration.

Many organizations boldly proclaim collaboration as a core value. Regrettably, in a significant majority of cases, genuine collaboration within these organizations proves elusive. The proclaimed mindset lacks self-sustainability, necessitating constant prodding from top management.

When collaboration is framed either as a value or an outcome of mindset, addressing its absence becomes a complex challenge. This perspective hinders systematic intervention, relegating efforts to isolated activities like team training and the deployment of shared workspaces and software solutions. While these initiatives contribute, a sustained collaborative environment remains an elusive achievement.

These findings pivot our perspective on collaboration.

Foremost is the realization that collaboration cannot be mandated or coerced. Such attempts yield either strict adherence or a complete breakdown in communication.

From our vantage point, supported by experience, we posit that individuals generally harbor an openness and willingness to collaborate. This inclination is not necessarily tied to a preference for working in formal teams but signifies a broader receptivity to collaborative efforts.

This insight leads to a crucial distinction: Collaboration and teamwork, while interlinked, are not synonymous. While a team requires collaboration for effectiveness, collaboration need not be confined to a formal team setting. A vivid example underscores this point – an ad agency scenario

A vivid example underscores this point – an ad agency scenario where a talented designer adamantly refused collaboration. His rationale was clear – sharing knowledge and expertise would jeopardize his standing, a sentiment reflected in numerous instances.

In dissecting collaboration barriers, three key areas emerge – lack of knowledge, a culture that discourages collaboration, and an environment actively impeding collaboration. Consequently, we redefine collaboration as a competency encompassing behavior, knowledge, and process, recognizing that neither a purely mindset-driven nor a value-centric approach adequately addresses it.

Returning to collaboration impediments, fear emerges as the overarching challenge, rooted either in culture or environment.

Cultural hindrances to collaboration unveil intriguing dynamics. Few organizations grasp their culture, resorting to behavioral regulation through rules and policies. However, enforcing these measures invariably fosters an atmosphere dominated by fear, presenting a formidable obstacle to genuine collaboration.

Should an organization grasp its culture, with implicitly shared values aligning with corporate principles and a collective vision, barriers to collaboration diminish. However, cultural values such as transparency and respect can facilitate collaboration, while traits like individualism and a focus on winning hinder it. Yet, understanding and managing one’s culture constitutes a fundamental prerequisite for fostering true collaboration.

This, though necessary, proves insufficient. The strategic and operational environment can still act as a substantial roadblock to collaboration. No factor exacerbates this more than a performance management system rooted in target and KPI achievement, especially when tied to pay levels.

A KPI-based PMS, with its focus on individual or group KPIs, poses a serious threat to collaboration. It fosters a mindset of internal competition, diminishing the willingness to consider collaborative efforts. Underpinning this environment is once again fear – fear of not achieving KPIs, missing out on bonuses, facing career stagnation, or even layoffs due to perceived low performance.

As reiterated, collaboration cannot be dictated or forced. Any targets or KPIs designed to ‘foster’ collaboration are bound to fail.

Lastly, effective collaboration requires specific knowledge and behavioral markers. This is where the promotion of:

  1. Understanding that sharing benefits everyone,
  2. The knowledge that collaboration thrives in a truthful environment,
  3. Realization of individual accountability for content,
  4. Awareness of others in a social setting,

becomes crucial. Here, training and a mentoring environment play pivotal roles.

A robust mentorship culture, prevalent both interdepartmentally and throughout hierarchies, emerges as a potent catalyst. Though this perspective may challenge prevailing wisdom, we maintain that an effective and dynamic collaborative environment stands as a foundational block for constructing a sustainable, high-performance organization.

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