The labor in Col-“labor”-ation

I laughed when I saw this.  How many of us have been on one or both sides of this table before?

“We want to include you in this decision without letting you affect it.”

We’re asked to give advice or recommend a solution.  So we work hard and sometimes spend long hours to provide the best answer.  Later we learn that our recommendations were not followed, and possibly never looked at.  We’re deflated.

That has happened to me more than once.  One time early in my career as a young consultant, our team was asked to recommend a set of new Standard Operating Procedures for a large financial office.  We worked long hours, carefully considered every detail, and ultimately delivered a 350-page masterpiece (so we thought) for our client to implement.  They took our deliverable with appreciation, even admiration, and we were paid for our work.  But in the months that followed as I did subsequent work for the client, I noticed that our document simply collected dust on a shelf in the office.  Our “deliverable” was just that: deliver-able but not implement-able.  So that was it – all that time amounted to “shelfware.”   Why?  I learned that it wasn’t because our solutions for them were inaccurate or our ideas were bad.  It just wasn’t their solution.

I often point my clients to a concept from Michael Wilkinson’s book, The Secrets of Facilitation.  He says that an 85% solution with the right stakeholder involvement is better than a 100% solution without stakeholder involvement.

So that’s why we make decisions collaboratively. If it’s our decision, we determine who should weigh in.  If it’s our opportunity to recommend a solution, we involve the key players in the process. Does it require more work? Yes.  Is it a slower process? Usually in the short-term.  Is it more painful and risky at the beginning?  Often.

But in the end, it pays off.  We provide lasting value to those involved and get much closer to accomplishing our decision goals.  So I’m interested in your thoughts: What are the risks and benefits of collaboration?

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3 thoughts on “The labor in Col-“labor”-ation

  1. The main benefits of collaboration I see are obtaining input from those that would be affected by the decision as well as their buy-in but sometimes I wonder is collaboration always the best approach when making a decision. Depending on the type of decision an organization is dealing with, the risk is having a solution that doesn’t take into account the broader strategic direction of the organization and therefore potential negative impact.

  2. A major risk of collaboration is it is a threat to expediency of decisions and action. This is why most companies for example, provide ultimate executive authority to one CEO. We want to make the best decisions, but we also want stuff to get done! The more important the decisions become, the more it makes sense to collaborate – the value in getting it right will begin outweighing the delays in a quick decision. On the other hand, look no further than our Congress – where partisanship, agendas, and bad blood among warring camps paralyze the collaborative delivery of bipartisan legislative action, and generally impede the greater good. When the decisions are important enough, the solution is not to stop collaborating, but to establish and abide by workable mechanisms to resolve and overcome these potential collaboration pitfalls.

  3. My summary would be that the benefits of collaboration far outweigh any ‘risks’. It seems that often the “risk” may be that someone’s opinion of what “has to happen” may get outweighed by a more rational or less-risky approach determined by a stakeholder-team; And then is that a “risk” or actually a “validation point”?

    Often individuals fiercely defend their judgement while being blind to other key data points, and although this may be “normal or common”, can critical decisions be made by 1 “forced-judgement”?

    There are risks to collaboration as listed here, but these can be addressed in a decision process as proven by the leading work done by Decision Lens.

    Here is the summary from Wikipedia speaks to Benefits & Risks:

    (Benefits)
    “Group decision making (also known as collaborative decision making) is a situation faced when individuals are brought together in a group to solve problems. According to the idea of synergy, decisions made collectively tend to be more effective than decisions made by a single individual.
    (Risks)
    However, there are situations in which the decisions made by a collection of individuals are riddled with error, or poor judgment. For example, groups high in cohesion have been noted to have a negative effect on group decision making and hence on group effectiveness.[1] Risky-shift phenomenon, group-polarization, and group-think are just three examples of the negative consequences that may result from group decision making.[1] Moreover, when individuals make decisions as part of a group, there is a tendency to exhibit a bias towards discussing shared information (i.e., shared information bias), as opposed to unshared information”.

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