Collaboration Begins with You: A book review by Bob Morris

CollaborationCollaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster
Ken Blanchard, Jane Ripley, and Eunice Parisi-Carew
Berrett-Koehler Publishers (2015)

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” Pogo the Possum

In Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground, and Reap Big Results, Morten Hansen asserts, “Bad collaboration is worse than no collaboration.” Why? Here are two of several reasons. First, bad collaboration never reaps “big” or even favorable results; worse yet, bad collaboration makes good collaboration even more difficult to plan and then achieve. With regard to “traps,” Hansen identifies six in the first chapter and then suggests that there are three steps to disciplined collaboration. That is, the “the leadership practice of properly assessing when to collaborate (and when not to) and instilling in people both the willingness and the ability to collaborate when required.” These are the three steps: (1) evaluate opportunities, and when making a decision, asking “Will we gain a great upside by collaborating?”; (2) identify barriers to collaboration, next asking “What are the barriers blocking people from collaborating well?”; and (3) tailor solutions to tear down the barriers, keeping in mind that different barriers require different solutions.

Ken Blanchard, Jane Ripley, and Eunice Parisi-Carew use the business narrative (story format) to dramatize a number of key points. The details of the story are best revealed in the book, in context. These points include:

o Personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive in a culture of collaboration.
o Mutual trust and respect are essential to effective collaboration.
o There must be a shared commitment to the given objective(s) by everyone involved
o There must also be personal accountability.
o Communication and cooperation must be open and transparent if collaboration is to succeed.

Silos are containers that were created long ago to store grain. The word was appropriated (probably by a management consultant) to be used as an extended metaphor for hoarding information. Blanchard, Ripley, and Parisi-Carew have no quarrel with the agricultural use of silos but insist — and I agree — that silos in any human community cause all kinds of problems for those who reside in them as well as for those who are excluded. They explain how to “bust” a silo by changing an attitude, a mindset, and — as is so often the case — it begins with one’s own. They include an especially valuable “Self Assessment: How Collaborative Do You Think You Are?” (Pages 137-148) so that those who read the book can look at themselves as a collaborative leader or individual contributor.

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out Hansen’s aforementioned book as well as two others: Michael Lee Stallard’s Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy, and Understanding at Work and Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations co-authored by Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone.

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