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In my last post, I expounded on Co-collaboration as being the way forward in terms of delivering real value in outsourcing. Having written the post it occurred to me that I had been presumptuous in a universal understanding of the word collaboration. If you look up the word collaboration you will see that the first word in the online thesaurus is collude. Collusion in modern parlance is a word associated with bribery and corruption. To my parent’s generation, the word collaborator was used to refer to someone who willingly assisted the invading Nazi’s during WW2 and was akin to the word traitor. So not a great provenance for a word that has come to mean the joining of hands in pursuit of noble objectives.

To further complicate matters it occurs to me that collaboration occurs along a continuum which has five specific stages, all of which are probably everyday occurrences for most of us in our working lives and so the achievement of collaboration is not beyond our reach, although to achieve the final step takes a sometimes counterintuitive approach.

Communicating

Much of the current day ills of our society are blamed on a lack of communication, and there is no doubt that many of today’s communications are inadequately structured, poorly focused and delivered through inappropriate channels so as to confine the communication process to a one-way street.  For communication to work, it requires us to take the effort to construct our message so that it is understood. this is easily said but at the very least involves an understanding of your intended audience, the preferred channel as well as the language to be used. This is in its most basic form involves a degree of collaboration.

Networking

Networking in today’s society gives rise to images of an ever expanding spiders web of connections and is associated with enhanced the communications afforded by the social networks such as the likes of Facebook, Twitter etc.  The information exchange through such networks is relatively frictionless as there is little effort on both parties to establish the connection. Whilst networks facilitate greater degrees of two-way communication there is little need to give up or share any personal collateral nor is there generally a common purpose or objective in mind.

Coordinating

Coordinating is a step up the continuum and differs from networking as it involves the exchange of information in a synchronised fashion towards a common goal or objective. This higher level of collaboration involves a degree of trust between the parties towards a shared goal or objective. However coordination does not necessarily involve the sharing of personal collateral and can be sometimes viewed as an administrative task conducted by an outside party coordinating others towards a joint purpose or shared goal, thus the coordinator need not have any ‘skin in the game’.

Co-operating

Co-operating is an association designed for mutual benefit and for the purposes of achieving a common goal. To be successful there needs to be personal involvement intent and trust by all parties involved.  whilst a leader may exist as part of the endeavour, all parties need to have ‘skin in the game’ if there is to be co-operation. Whilst co-operation means that participants will contribute and participate in the initiative towards the stated objective they may not necessarily actively engage to find solutions for the greater good of the initiative or the other members. Whilst each participant may be co-operating towards the ultimate team objective their motives may not be wholly altruistic, indeed they may be self-serving and selfish,although not ultimately destructive.

Collaborating

At the highest end of the collaboration continuum, there needs to exist a high level of trust and a large degree of personal commitment or collateral to the initiative at hand. However, collaboration differs to all the other states in that it requires each partner to demonstrate and act upon their partners best interests. This means that they understand that their partner’s success is as important as their own and they cannot achieve success without each other. They are therefore actively engaged in achieving their partner’s goals as these are inherent to the goals of the initiative. In Africa, this is perfectly described by the word Ubuntu, which loosely translated means I am because of who you are. The spirit of Ubuntu was core to the servant leadership style of Nelson Mandela during the transition from the apartheid Government during the early 90s.

As I expanded upon in my previous post, collaboration or co-collaboration is an absolute necessity in the business of outsourcing. As a service provider, we constantly hear our prospective clients talk about partnership as a vague notion of working together. But partnership is impossible without collaboration and collaboration is essential if we are to efficiently leverage the resources required to achieve mutual goals. As service providers and leaders, it is important that in pursuit of our customer’s objectives we learn to collaborate in order to serve our partners, our customers and our tribe.

How have you achieved more by means of Collaboration?
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