In business, we collaborate with others all the time. Whether its working with the members of our team, or closing an important deal with a customer or vendor, or developing a new product or service with a business partner, building effective collaboration skills and strategies is key to success in business.
According to Felix Barber and Michael Goold, business consultants and authors of the book, Collaboration Strategy, "The greatest concern for most business owners and CEOs, what keeps them awake at night, is often not their strategy--how to create a compelling customer offer or how to outsmart the competition--it's how to get people to make that strategy actually happen."
Getting people to make something happen in business is a large part of what leadership and being a manager is all about. There are, however, effective ways to accomplish this goal, and not-so-effective ways. In their book, Barber and Goold present the following 10 keys for bringing about a successful--and profitable--collaboration.
1. Creates value
Any successful collaboration creates value both for your partners, and for you. Be sure that you know exactly what value you are providing, and that you provide as much as you can within the available resources.
2. Results in competitive advantage for you
A successful collaboration--whether with employees, vendors, customers, or other business partners--will make your company stronger and more competitive in the marketplace. This is a time when 1 + 1 = 3.
3. Takes account of your abilities
When you collaborate with others, you have to know what you bring to the table--the expertise, experience, and skills that your partner may lack. At the same time, know your weaknesses. These will be the things you look for in a good partner.
4. Your partners are able (and self-motivated)
Just as you must be experienced and skilled, so too must your partners be experienced and skilled. They should be excited to partner with you for your mutual benefit.
5. Your partners have no awkward conflicts of interest
Close collaborations require that conflicts of interest with other individuals or companies don't intrude in the relationship and trust that you are building with each other. Do thorough due diligence up front to avoid the kind of conflicts of interest that can ruin an otherwise successful collaboration.
6. Your partners do not have and will not gain too much bargaining power
Ideally, the parties in a collaboration will have roughly equal bargaining power, that is, no one party can force the other to accept terms and conditions that are not favorable. It's difficult to build a stable, long-term collaboration when one party has unequal bargaining power.
7. Set goals and constraints to measure performance
Each party to the collaboration needs to be able to set goals for the partnership, and then measure their progress--and the progress of their partner--toward meeting them. If there are going to be constraints in the collaboration, they need to be defined in advance.
8. Align rewards with performance
Successful collaborations incentivize performance in ways that reward the parties for achieving specific goals and milestones. This is true whether you are collaborating with employees, vendors, customers, or other business partners.
9. Specify favorable terms
To ensure the success of your collaboration, be prepared to offer favorable terms to the other party--and expect (and require) the same in return.
10. Meet requirements from partners' perspective as well as your own
The more of the above nine keys to collaboration you have working for you, the better. However, in the best-case scenario, you'll meet all nine--both from your perspective, as well as your partner's.