Barriers to Collaboration

Practical examples of barriers to effective collaboration within companies

Have just been rereading Morten Hansen’s excellent book: “Collaboration”. Hansen concentrates on collaboration within the enterprise. He draws on significant research across a range of large corporates – including well known companies such as Proctor & Gamble, Apple and HP. I have been reviewing his ‘Barriers to Collaboration’ in the context of my own experience across a range of companies.

Not Invented Here
Particularly struck by Hansen’s reference to ‘insular culture’ and ‘status gap’. An example of this often arises where consultants are introduced to assist in some form of business transformation/ BPR – but there is a tendency within certain groups to hold meetings behind closed doors – excluding the consultants. I actually think the status gap is more serious in terms of junior personnel not wanting to open up with senior personnel – because they have experienced a lack of interest/ responsiveness in the past of their suggestions.

Hoarding
In the current climate of economic pressures, cutbacks, rationalisation Hansen’s reference to ‘Being too busy’ certainly rings true. People who are hard-pressed to get their own job done are less willing/ available to assist others. This is a real challenge for management – to provide the environment and opportunities for effective research and collaboration.

Search
It is disappointing that finding people and information seems to be such a challenge. However from my own background in Business Intelligence I think we all know that it is pointless to expect people to contribute data when they do not understand the ultimate use/ benefit of this data. There is any number of technological solutions available – but these require an understanding upfront and commitment to improved processes and technologies.

Transfer
There are real challenges in transferring what Hansen describes as ‘tacit knowledge’. All very well to capture basics of relationships in a CRM system – but the valuable information is often difficult to put down in writing and requires genuine collaboration for its effective transfer. Tacit knowledge transfer takes us into the area of emotional intelligence and ability to intereatc and share ideas.