The presentation of the vision has aroused strong interest: the employees are enthusiastic about the idea of introducing new ways of collaborating. But does this mean the most difficult part is now behind you? No, it doesn't, because this is actually where the difficult part begins. A large number of different people now need to begin taking action, and there are often many obstacles standing in the way. What we are referring to here is not the technical aspect of implementing a new solution, but the process of introducing new working practices.
It is very important to identify the new expected behaviours, the competences to develop, and the attitudes to adopt. In essence, employees will need to collaborate on a daily basis and share their work documents with each other. They will need to learn to use the newly introduced solution, not so much in terms of its functional aspects, which tend to be intuitive, but in terms of the best practices to adopt, such as how to facilitate the use of collaborative working spaces for example. They will need to adopt certain types of values, such as a willingness to share, to be transparent, and to show goodwill towards others.
The first thing you can use as leverage is the interest shown by individuals themselves. Self-interest can lead individuals to collaborate together once they have recognised that it is in their own interest to do so. The important thing is to get people to take action so that they can find out how it can be of benefit to them. Initial enthusiasm for a new solution will be of considerable help in this respect, though this is only a first stage.
In order to move forward, the organisation will need to equip itself with the means to do so, which begins with providing instruction and training for those who are going to collaborate and work together. For example, it may prove necessary to train managers in new approaches to managing. Unfortunately, the cost of such training course can often be an obstacle to putting them in place. And even courses that last a whole week are of limited effectiveness if the knowledge gained from them is not put to practical use afterwards. However, there are other less costly and more effective approaches you can adopt: raising awareness, providing user guides, organising workshops, ensuring those with experience share it, introducing non-intrusive but consistent help and support, etc. And all this needs to be sustained over the long term once introduced.
Another very effective way of encouraging collaborative working is by setting specific objectives at each participating employee's annual appraisal: effective use of the tools made available, the sharing of experience, making the most of the knowledge available, adopting a positive attitude, etc. These are all aspects that will encourage HR staff, managers and all employees involved to consider and think about the role played by collaborative working in their own work and in the organisation's aims and objectives.
The crucial role played by the entire intermediate company hierarchy can never be overemphasised. Managers must allocate time to everyone they collaborate with to enable them to share their knowledge, help and support their colleagues, and discuss technical or commercial opportunities. Although this does take time away from other tasks, managers need to recognise and understand the advantages of this kind of collaborative working and both authorise and encourage it. And more important still, they themselves must lead by example.
Unfortunately, there can sometimes be difficulties to overcome. John Kotter talks in particular about the case of a manager, one with a decisive role to play, who exhibits downright hostility to change. When this occurs, it is no good ignoring it and hoping the manager's attitude will change all by itself. Open, honest dialogue is the best approach to adopt under these circumstances. This will often prove a successful strategy, perhaps by enabling a need for training or for help and support to be identified, for example. Should this not turn out to be the case, and with several attempts to resolve the situation having resulted in an impasse, a hard decision will have to be made, e.g. by reallocating responsibility. The reasons for doing this will be all the better understood by others if other approaches have already been tried beforehand.
And finally, John Kotter places particular emphasis on the essential role played by leaders, and this is something which is not the exclusive reserve of those at the top of the hierarchy or managers/team leaders etc. Leaders are the ones who indicate the direction to take, facilitate cooperation, motivate, inspire, and make change a dynamic process. Managers take care of budgeting, organising, keeping things under control and ensuring the final product is produced. It is a mistake to pit leaders against managers. The two complement each other. A good organisation needs to have people in both roles. Leaders will voluntarily encourage discussion and dialogue in order to convince others that greater collaboration will lead to an enhanced level of professional development for those taking part and make the company more effective and efficient.