Want Collaboration? Accept — and Actively Manage — Conflict


Here is an excerpt from an article written by Jeff Weiss and Jonathan Hughes for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.

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Companies attempt to foster collaboration among different parts of their organizations through a variety of methods, many based on a number on seemingly sensible but ultimately misguided assumptions.

Effective Collaboration Means “Teaming”

In fact, “the most critical breakdowns in collaboration typically occur not on actual teams but in the rapid and unstructured interactions between different groups [and individuals] within the organization.” Also, “breakdowns almost always result from fundamental differences from among business functions and divisions.”

An Effective Incentive System Will Ensure Collaboration

In fact, “Unfortunately, the results of such h programs are usually disappointing. Despite greater financial incentives, for example, salespeople continue to focus on the sales of their own products to the detriment of selling integrated solutions…Certainly, misaligned incentives can be a tremendous obstacle to cross-boundary collaboration. But even the most carefully constructed incentives won’t eliminate tensions between people with competing business objectives [and personal priorities].”

Organizations Can Be Structured for Collaboration

In fact, “”Bringing people together is very different from getting them to collaborate,” especially on an intradepartmental basis. “Despite painstaking process design, results are disappointing. To avoid the inevitable conflicts between business units and IT over project prioritization,” for example, concerning shared and centralized resources, “managers in the business units quickly learn to bring to tho0se they know in the IT organization rather than entering the requests into the new system.”

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

This article is among the ten provided in HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Collaboration.

Jeff Weiss is an adjunct professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a partner at Vantage Partners. He specializes in corporate negotiations and relationship management.

Jonathan Hughes is a partner at Vantage Partners, and an expert in strategic sourcing, supply chain management, negotiation, strategic alliances, and organizational transformation.

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