Not so long ago, I was asked by a client to help with the rollout of a large corporate transformation program. One thing quickly became clear: producing tangible results will in large part depend on the quality of collaboration between teams and people across company divisions. Even for highly technical programs, where detailed process management, planning and technical expertise are crucial.
In these times of relentless change, forcing even the best of companies to transform and future-proof themselves, the real challenge is: getting people to work together across company divisions and cultures in a way that generates results. Like increasing our agility and adaptability, attracting new customers with better services and products, taking better decisions, and solving problems customers genuinely care about.
Is there an ideal recipe, you might wonder? Is there a one-fits-all solution? Companies, challenges and people are way to diverse for one-fits-all solutions, and thank god for that – for wouldn’t life be boring if our actions and solutions were the same!
But there ARE some smart things you can do to improve the quality of cross-company collaboration and generate measurable results. Of all the interventions tested in the course of many years (and in various business settings), here is my personal top 4:
Work with the best. Invest in diversity
Work with the best people you can find. Like Andrew Carnegie did, who attributed his phenomenal success in business “not to what I have known or done myself, but to the faculty of knowing and choosing others who did know better than myself.” (source: Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie).
Read more here about the value of working with the best:
1) Building Your Executive Team: 3 Valuable Lessons from Andrew Carnegie
In addition, countless studies have shown that investing in diversity (personalities, skills, business experience, …) pays. A company like Philips, for instance, would not have become the multinational it is today without the complementarity of backgrounds and characters at the top. Read more here about the value of diversity in business teams:
2) A Powerful Story about Team Diversity by the Philips Founding Fathers
Build rhythm and focus
Start building rhythm and a collective focus right away, even when the details of the desired end result are not yet totally defined. Read here how a well-developed and regularly updated strategy road map can help your teams to find a steady work rhythm (like a drumbeat) and shared focus, reach results that increase trust, and take corrective action when required:
3) Strategy Execution, Why It Often Fails
Create Transparency and Openness
Pay enough attention to creating transparency and openness, particularly when your teams consist of people from different company divisions. When people born and raised in different cultures work together, pay even more attention: Dutch/American-style directness suddenly feels entirely out of place in an Asian environment, for instance. Read here what you can do to stimulate transparency and openness in your team. Careful listening, as a general rule, is always a good idea:
4) Leading Cross-Cultural Teams: How to Create Openness?
Make your team embrace accountability
Is it possible to build teams where people do not hide behind one another? Where people feel ownership for the team’s objectives, and feel personally responsible for their contribution to the team’s success, and to reaching the desired results? Is it possible to make your team embrace accountability? I know it is, and you can maybe take away some interesting insights from what I have seen working well:
5) Four Tips to Make Your Team Embrace Accountability
Let me know:
What do you do to improve the quality of collaboration between people and teams, and generate results? Share your own experiences and tips below!
Co-written by Hanneke Siebelink
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Photo: Eron Sandler/Flickr (Creative Commons)
Aad is a global business advisor, change leader, executive team facilitator, leadership coach, and frequently asked keynote speaker. He is founder and managing partner at HRS Business Transformation Services where he works with senior executives and leadership teams globally in three key domains: ‘leading complex change’, ‘cross-cultural leadership’, and ‘post-merger integration’. Find out more about Aad and our services. If you would like to invite Aad to your organization contact us.
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