Infighting blocks progress.

How often do you see that headline?

Government Executive, an American trade magazine, recently reported that a lack of collaboration created a challenge between the Defense Contracting Audit Agency and the Defense Contracting Management Agency. The article discusses the challenge they have related to working with a contractor.  Might make you wonder how much money is wasted because of a lack of collaboration.

What causes an inability to collaborate?  Leaders everywhere must ask themselves that, beginning by looking in circles around their own desk.  First, ask the team how they collaborate.  This can lead to an excellent coaching and learning conversation. What would happen if the leader of a team asked his colleagues to provide the following information:

Who do you collaborate with outside our team/agency/department?

Why do you collaborate with them?

What results do you get from that collaboration?

What lessons did you learn from that type of collaboration?

Providing information on these collaborative contacts can help leaders understand where key connectors are outside of the office. These connectors are the key processes or individuals moving the issue effortlessly across boundaries.

Through a rudimentary analysis of these outside contacts, leaders can learn the barriers and perhaps even gaps in collaboration that may need bridging.  Barriers can be formal and required, such as legislation needed to keep contractors and regulators separate. Barriers can also be informal and ill-advised, such as challenges with authority, power, and ego.

Identifying the collaborative networks is the leader’s job.  It helps the leader and the team fully realize their reach and their resources.  Understanding this reach helps the leader determine the formal and informal barriers to process and communicate within the office.

A complete picture of collaboration allows the leader to identify the strengths and challenges of both formal and informal barriers, developing tools to create a more efficient process.  This efficiency, built on a strong sense of direction, can reinforce alignment within the team and outside the team, increasing the team’s effectiveness. When effectiveness increases and is recognized by key stakeholders, it leads to increased commitment, both internal and external to the team.

In essence, collaboration equals greater commitment.  Think of what that commitment can do to.  It may just lead to less infighting and better governance.

How well has collaboration worked within your organization?

~Clemson Turregano

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