The 6 Levels of Collaboration

"There are 6 Levels of Collaboration. The delivery of truly extraordinary results is dependent on how far up the hierarchy you're willing to go."

Six Levels of Collaboration

What makes a major industry CEO send a LinkedIn message to the world that he is participating in a global conference to set aside barriers and commit to collaboration above competition? For him it was very simple - because that is what it is going to take to deliver on his commitment to safety.

Collaboration done well and for the right reason has proven itself repeatedly to produce extraordinary results that would have been unthinkable in a purely competitive environment. We see this in the ever-increasing trend to go open source in the technology sector as well as in industry wide initiatives to enhance safety performance.

Collaboration can be a powerful tool when a bigger picture can be leveraged to generate insights for innovation, arrive at more considered solutions, reduce risk or simply increase the impact across a wider base. However, the desired effect of collaboration is directly related to the willingness of the participants to put aside their vested interests and work in service of a common purpose.

In essence there are 6 Levels of Collaboration and the delivery of extraordinary results through collaboration is dependent on how far up this hierarchy one is willing and able to go.

1. Common Intent

The basis of any successful collaboration is that there is common intent. This sounds obvious, but all too often there are multiple vested interests at play and although it may sound like there is common intent behind the collaborative effort, deviating interests may be driving the show behind the scenes. For collaboration to work everybody needs to be in it for the same reason.

2. Shared Information

Effective collaboration is only possible if the participants all work from the same data-set. Not only is the willingness to share relevant data fundamental in building trust between the participants, it is also essential to arrive at insights and decisions that go beyond what any one player could have arrived at on their own volition.

3. Shared Commitment

Having a common intent and demonstrated a willingness to share relevant information allows for a shared commitment to be made. This is a very tangible step where all participants go on the record and state to their key stakeholders (or possibly to a wider audience) a common articulation of what outcome from the collaboration they can be held accountable for. This is the first acid test of successful collaboration as the willingness to be held accountable is a clear sign of authentic intent to contribute to delivering the outcome.

4. Collective Ownership

Authentic collaboration only starts coming to the fore at the point where all the participants take ownership of the complete strategy and plan for delivering the outcome, rather than just their part in the effort. The sign of collective ownership is that everyone involved continuously search across the scope to identify and action what needs to be done to succeed, irrespective of who was ‘supposed to’ do/deliver what.

5. Single Voice

A truly evolved collaboration will morph from being a collection of aligned stories of why they are involved to becoming one single story. To the listener it is no longer clear that the people/companies involved have different paymasters, as they all speak from their shared commitment and ownership rather than their original reason for being involved.

6. One cause

The pinnacle of collaboration is when the participants transcend their respective company business cases for being involved and become as willing to invest in a fellow collaborator’s business to deliver the committed outcome as they would in their own business.

Moving up the hierarchy of collaboration requires effort and leadership. Each level increases the requirement for authentic conversations, a new level of facility for resolving problems and challenges, re-examination of the purpose for the collaboration, tools for generating increasingly deep levels of relevant insights and handling increasingly challenging conversations with stakeholders.

One of the reasons we set up SLP is that we saw that traditional top-down consulting and leadership was no longer working in the networked world. This was particularly striking when it came to joint venturing, collaboration and engaging the wider parts of complex organisations. SLP’s transformational engagement framework has been designed in collaboration with our clients over the last five years as a means to transform their businesses and cultures to tackle the complexities of the new business era – building new leadership and organisational capability, fostering disruptive and frugal innovation and delivering unprecedented results, especially in complex collaborative and multi stakeholder situations. If you want to hear more from the actual field of play, what we are doing and delivering right now, and how we can do the same for you – get in touch.

The pinnacle of collaboration is when the participants transcend their respective company business cases for being involved and become as willing to invest in a fellow collaborator’s business to deliver the committed outcome as they would in their own business.