Updated: Nov 15, 2018
Collaboration is a buzzword used across organizations but very few have mastered the art of institutionalizing collaborative behavior. Collaboration, in simple words, is creating something as a team that would not be possible working individually.
One of the premise of the integrated supply chain management concept was to foster collaboration within the business as well as with the external partners. The extent to which this objective has been achieved, varies from company to company. Merely creating an integrated supply chain function does not guarantee collaborative approach. That is why, in many cases, SCM function has itself become a silo within the organization. Not just that, it continues to nurture silos within itself in the form of logistics, demand planning, FG inventory management, supply management and so on.
In one such example, a supply planner, who was involved in planning huge quantities of promotion product, did not communicate the plan to the downstream supply chain. Thus, the warehouses were taken by surprise and did not have enough resources and space to handle the product. The end outcome was a delay in the launch of promotion and dilution of its effectiveness.
Sales and Operations Planning Process is another initiative intended to encourage collaborative behavior but that too has met with limited success. The root cause of the problem lies beyond the realms of organization structure, processes, IT tools etc.
How does a leader get to know that collaboration is not working at the workplace? Here are few indicators:
People would ask for more resources & buffers e.g. inventory, people, budgets etc.
People would come back with problems or the reasons why certain goals could not be met
The amount of effort being put in by people is not commensurate with the outcomes
In the group meetings, people would not voice concerns or speak in muted voice
There is either too much tension or too much bonhomie between people
Check Your Organization's Collaboration Index here
KEY INGREDIENTS OF COLLABORATIVE CULTURE
People need a purpose for collaboration. It has been found that people, in general, tend to collaborate more in the situations of crisis e.g. war, natural calamities or crisis within a company. The crisis creates a strong and common purpose for people to give up their individual gains for a collective cause.
One of the ways to create a strong purpose is to develop shared vision and goals for the organization. This shared vision should override all other goals and objectives either at individual or functional level. To know if your team members have a shared vision, you can do a small exercise. In one of the group meetings, ask each team member to write down the shared vision and you would be surprised to see variety of responses. Every individual in the organization should have clear line of sight to these few shared and Wildly Important Goals. The shared ownership reduces the functional or territorial attitude.
One of the reasons why people do not share knowledge, expertise or experience is lack of trust on each other. The fear of misuse of the shared information or credit taken for personal benefit destroys the trust. In one case, the production manager of a company informed supply planner about machine breakdown resulting in production shortfall. Instead of collaborating with the production to re-prioritize and reschedule production, he used the information to blame the production manager. One such instance is good enough to destroy the trust and create barriers for collaboration.
Trust requires building relationships and networks. Getting to know people, beyond their roles and positions, goes a long way in building trust. When the relationship becomes informal and personal, the chances of collaboration enhance. Company focused on collaboration enable these relationships by providing common and informal places for relaxation, breakouts, coffee corners etc. People get to know what other people do, understand each other’s pain points, develop empathy – something that you wouldn’t get to know through official job descriptions. The informal relationships create trusts which in turn makes collaboration smoother.