How to structure successful joint working.
Great ingredients elevate even the simplest dish, but cannot save bad cooking.
Similarly, there are effective rules for collaboration that can elevate any collaboration to greatness, but no rule survives poor execution.
So what are these rules, and how should you apply them?
At their heart is a clear objective, which has been defined to achieve a specific purpose. A considered, thoughtful and appropriate idea of what the collaboration should produce, together with the reason why this is beneficial to you, your fellow collaborators, and perhaps third parties too.
It's amazing to see how many collaborative efforts don't achieve this, until of course we realise how many of the things that people do – individually and as organisations – lack clarity about their goal, their purpose, or both of them. It might even be the majority.
At this point it is important to explicitly call out the many phantoms conjured up in place of real ones. Some people who are brilliant at raising money, selling to initial customers, following the corporate treadmill, or relentlessly trying variations until something works, end up concluding they want or need to collaborate. They then embark on this without a clear idea of what the outcome and the function of a collaboration are, for their collaborators, and sometimes even for themselves.
This includes such vagaries as "more revenue", "new territories", "different types of user" and "combined products".
Each of those can be a powerful central outcome of a positive collaboration, but is so generic on its own that it does not stand as an objective (the what) or a purpose (the why).
Successful collaborations can be described using 7 essential elements:
1. A clear OBJECTIVE.
2. Desired by YOU as an owner (perhaps on behalf of your organisation).
3. Involving certain BARRIERS to overcome.
4. Requiring the help of certain STAKEHOLDERS.
5. Each of whom you need a RELATIONSHIP with.
6. PRINCIPLES to govern actions for the Objective within those Relationships.
7. And BOUNDARIES of those actions.
Recognising these fundamantals allows you to create a map of your intended collaboration and maintain your course in practice.
This map describes an ecosystem for solving the Objective.
Navigation is governed by the map's Principles, acting as both compass and grid, defining intent and setting expectations.
These help build trust and confidence in all Stakeholders to mitigate any disruptions and risks of the collaborative journey and the ultimate Objective.
The map's edge is defined by Boundaries, which limit the scope of collaboration and define what is left ungoverned by it.
This creates certainty about what the collaboration covers, reinforcing its purpose to reach the Objective.
Together these make all Relationships consistent within the defined context, both with each other, and over time.
This supports Stakeholders to act in concert with You and each other for the Objective, removing Barriers under their control or influence.
A "Stakeholder" can have any of the following characteristics:
- be a peer, senior or junior level to You
- internal to Your organisation, or external
- engaged under formal agreements, informal relationships, or mere association
- be a revenue-generating, cost-centred, or cash neutral counterparty
- be identifiable as Your customer, supplier, partner, regulator, competitor, or bystander
The Collaboration Map thus gives you:
- an organising structure
- a communicable narrative
- a planning methodology
with which You can align Your own resources and permissions, as well as all Stakeholders, in common execution of your Objective.
Click here to see how I use it to help you.