What would be a quick test someone could use to determine whether a company’s culture was sufficiently collaborative?
If the executives are cloistered in mahogany-lined offices, and everybody else is in a cubicle, that’s a clue. But perhaps even more important would be the recognition and rewards system of the company. Are they recognizing and rewarding people for internally competitive, command-and-control behavior? Or are they recognizing and rewarding people for collaborative behavior?
If this is as clear as you describe, why wouldn’t companies see it for themselves?
The problem is that for years we have been in a society that has reinforced command-and-control. And that’s the way organizations have been operating: Paying a few people to think, and paying everyone else to carry out orders. But we’ve learned that just doesn’t work any more. Now it’s “all hands on deck.” There is a realization that we need to come together to make decisions and solve problems and even develop products, regardless of level, role, or region.
But what about the approach where a strong leader sets a goal and says, “Let’s all march toward that”?
There needs to be someone at the top who people can look up to as a leader. But the approach to leadership doesn’t need to be command-and-control to be effective. In fact, when people within an organization are able to participate in decisions, a company can create far greater value.
So where does this anticollaboration ethos come from?
We can’t ignore our educational system. When I was in school, collaborating on homework was called “cheating.” The way we operate in the university setting, and in a corporate setting, is in many ways an outgrowth of our education system. Maybe we need to take another look at how we’re conditioning people to behave later in life. Because if everything is being graded on a curve, and we are competing with everyone around us, how are we ever going to be able to effectively collaborate in an organization?
Command-and-control might not be pretty, but it gets things done. Couldn’t an overemphasis on collaboration paralyze an organization?
What paralyzes an organization is when management compromises value by failing to tap ideas, expertise, and assets. What also paralyzes an organization is when requests for decisions languish in in-boxes rather than hashing out issues spontaneously. Paying a few people to think and paying everybody else to carry out orders creates far less value than breaking down barriers among silos and enabling people to engage each other spontaneously.