THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN COLLABORATION AND COOPERATION
Between company sectors collaboration is essential for the carrying out of major projects and initiatives. However, the collaboration of the many skills and resources of various departments, each with its own specific functions to complete a challenging project is much easier in theory than in practice. People need to be willing to get together to share their information and cooperate. More importantly it necessitates the making of difficult decisions and talking about tasks to complete whilst avoiding adjusting the workload across sectors that have different priorities and management styles.
Despite good intentions to cooperate, it is often where interdepartmental differences between collaboration and cooperation goes wrong. That’s because although we are conditioned to be cooperative and willing to help and share information, we are rarely truly collaborative. We have difficulties in sharing the whole process with those who have been involved since the beginning. In general we compromise with everyone instead of doing our bit.
An example from the auto industry
Let’s imagine an automobile company is producing a new vehicle for launch. To do this it is necessary to involve several sectors of the company. Such as Product, Engineering, Industrial, Marketing, Sales and After Sales. In addition to the entire dealer network which must market the car and provide support and maintenance necessary for the model. There are many people and sectors involved in the development of the vehicle, so it is essential that there is collaboration between everyone from the design of the project to the sale of the end product. In this specific case, if there is not a perfect “marriage” between everyone, the model may not come out. In addition to incurring high costs for its development or having serious production defects.
The Product team is responsible for conceiving the vehicle and thinking about the design, segment and functionality. As the planning is done by only one sector of the company, it can occur that when starting the product validation process involving the other areas so that there is a synergy between all departments and the manufacturing process, the project suffers a setback due to industrial difficulties, engineering, cost or the marketplace. Hence the problem leads to an increase in the project’s budget as well as delays in the vehicle launch schedule. Thereby compromising part of the company’s capital that’s probably allocated to other sectors.
The Gathering of everyone involved in each stage of project decision-making is an arduous and time-consuming process. In addition to impairing the team’s productivity which will be under pressure to compromise much of its schedule to resolve problems related to other areas of the company. Therefore, what can happen is a lack of synergy between the company’s internal teams, which in our example is further enhanced by involving the network of dealers and workshops.
A reflection on this case
What is striking about this example (and several others) is that, in large companies, product development teams are often encouraged to collaborate and work as a group. However, they are still unable to achieve the desired result because they confuse pleasant and cooperative behavior with collaboration (hence, the differences between collaboration and cooperation). We see therefore, that very few managers think that they are not good collaborators, mostly because they believe that their cooperation is collaboration.
Most managers are naturally cooperative, friendly and willing to share information. But what they lack is the ability and flexibility to align their goals and resources in real time. A series of errors can start at the top of the organization, when directors do not synchronize their strategies and management with one another or at a managerial level, which ends up being responsible for effecting collaboration between the sectors.
The Difference Between Collaboration and Cooperation
Being collaborative involves more than just sharing information and being present at meetings, that’s cooperation. Collaboration on the other hand happens when all the key employees of the company are involved in the process of creating a product, improving a process or solving a problem. Sharing their views, knowledge, schedules and, most importantly, worrying about the outcome for the company as a whole and not just handing over your share and letting someone else take care of the rest of the process. A truly collaborative project is one that does not belong to a manager but to all employees of the company.
Follow this series of posts and, next week, learn how to create a collaborative team in your company.
Text inspired by the article published by Harvard Business Review