I was invited by the Telfer School of Management in Ottawa to speak to a group of undergraduate management students. The following presents my views on the definition of “Collaboration”.
Saying you are collaborating, does not mean that you are. We’ve run into this one a lot over the last year. These three words seem to get people a little confused. So,…
Communicating. The Collaborative Transformation team definition for this term – and there are other definitions in the field, but just to differentiate a few things right now – communicating is when I come and talk to you. And, if I am a good communicator, I will try to get some feedback and I’ll try to at least confirm that you understood my message. Hopefully, I’ll go away with some sense that you got my message. And maybe I’ll try to communicate with you as well, and maybe I’ll try to communication with all of you. And, I’m going to give you a message. Now, I’ve walked into the room with a responsibility, accountability and intentions and I may have communicate all or part of that information to you. And, with varying degrees of success may have transferred that information clearly. But, when I walk out of the room, all of that responsibility and accountability is on my shoulders and you guys are off the hook. That’s communicating! That’s the type of communicating that matters when we worry about what collaboration is.
Now, consultation has gotten to be a popular word. It makes everybody feel good: “we consulted”. So, now I come back into the room, I am full of accountability and responsibility, and I’m going to get the job done, and my neck is in the neuse. So, I consult and I say: “This is what I am going to do”. And, I try to explain it as clearly as I can, and then I listen, and say: “What do you think?” And I listen really carefully, and maybe I’ll take notes, and I’ll say, “Oh! You really think that, good. What do you think? And, what do you think?”. Maybe I consult very broadly to get lots of different points of view, get lots of notes and maybe I write a big report. Then, I leave and I am totally accountable and responsible, and none of you are. You just gave me your opinions and I am under no obligation whatsoever to follow any of it – now, to my peril, perhaps, but I am not obliged.
Collaboration. We’re in it together. We are both responsible to get this done. You and me. That’s the difference. If we do not have joint accountability, if we are not both focused on the outcome, if we both don’t want it to happen, and are not willing to devote the resources to get it done, it’s not collaboration.