cooperation vs. collaboration

“Collaboration: being fully assertive and fully cooperative – at the same time” – Ambassador Enterprises, LLC

One thing I learned at AE was the value of collaboration and that it was often fiery and unpleasant; full of conflict with strong and intelligent people going at it over an idea. But the beautiful thing was that they weren’t trying to win an argument – they were trying to find the best solution for the problem at hand. It had nothing to do with their relationships / friendships – it was about doing their very best – as a team – to arrive at the best solution.

Following is part of an article from Harvard Business Review on how managers mistake cooperativeness for collaboration:

Having worked with hundreds of managers over the years, I’ve seen that very few admit to being poor collaborators, mostly because they mistake their cooperativeness for being collaborative. And indeed, most managers are cooperative, friendly, and willing to share information — but what they lack is the ability and flexibility to align their goals and resources with others in real time. Sometimes this starts at the top of the organization when senior leaders don’t fully synchronize their strategies and performance measures with each other. More often, however, the collaboration challenge resides with department heads, product leaders, and major initiative managers who need to get everyone on the same page – and shouldn’t wait for senior executives to force the issue for them.

Collaboration is hard work, but necessary if you want your organization to rise above being mediocre.


The Messiness of Working with Others

A cool rainy day here in southwest Michigan, but it has been a beautiful early spring.

We talk a lots about collaboration and especially across organizations.  Especially in ministry we often bemoan the fact of so many ministries doing the same thing with similar mission and why don’t we just work together?  Well, because it is messy!

We just do things differently and naturally our way is better!  Right? Sometimes it reminds me of some of the little irritants of marriage like does it unroll over or under?  Do you squeeze the toothpaste tube from the middle or roll up the bottom and other critical issues like that. Organizations are the same.

Also, we are here to get things done!  Taking time to explain and coordinate with others in other time zones sometimes, quite frankly, is a pain.  It slows things down.

BUT, when you fail to work with others (organizations), when you value speed and efficiency over the power of relationships and coordinated action, you lose so much potential for greater Kingdom impact.  It takes a wise and strong leader to help his “hard-chargers” to be willing to work a little more slowly and with less efficiency by working with others for the result of greater impact.

A wise leader will continue to help them to lift up their eyes from the present task or urgent situation to see the greater goal and to continue to explain the whys of working together – even if it is messy and less efficient.

Efficiency is important, but never let it trump effectiveness.  Don’t let the task trump the mission.  Keep a missional and Kingdom focus.

Have a great weekend!