Developing collaborative practices involves going well beyond simply implementing an enterprise social network or a collaborative intranet. Though an under-used collaborative solution can still bring about gains in efficiency, the organisation must aim to both transform itself and get everyone within it involved in changing working methods and mentalities.
Having closely examined the eight stages highlighted by John Kotter, it is important to now emphasise that each and everyone of them is an essential part of the whole process. When we revisit them in reverse order, beginning with the last and ending with the first, the prerequisites represented by each preceding stage are really brought to the fore:
8. The objective is to both change the organisation so that it becomes much more collaborative and take advantage of the possibilities offered by the new web-based technologies.
7. You cannot simply place collaboration at the heart of company culture by decree; in order to bring it about it is essential to first change current practices.
6. In order to make the use of collaborative practices widespread, you first have to demonstrate that initial successes have been achieved through their use.
5. To achieve these successes, you need to set up pilot projects and ensure those participating in them are provided with all the resources they require.
4. To ensure those participating in the pilot projects are committed to the cause, they must adhere to the shared vision.
3. In order to be shared, this vision must have first been defined.
2. In order to build this vision, a coalition needs to be formed of individuals who will contribute additional perspectives and lend their support to it afterwards.
1. To encourage high-ranking managers to join a coalition, a sense of urgency needs to brought to bear.
Very often, project leaders have a good vision but do not know how to get things moving within the organisation. These are the individuals for whom we have developed this guide, to help them to step back/take a wider view and to help them successfully undertake the eight stages involved. In particular, they will develop an understanding of the importance of including high-ranking managers in the coalition necessary for the success of the project and how to go about recruiting them.
One particular trap to avoid is that of tackling the project purely from a technical point of view. However, avoiding focussing uniquely on the technical aspects does mean neglecting them. These are the tools that make new collaborative practices possible. They are also non-interchangeable. Some of them impose a particular way of doing things; others can be adapted to match your expectations. Some have very specific applications, making it necessary to implement several different ones to cover your needs, whilst others are more comprehensive, more homogeneously ergonomic, and function together in more integrated ways.
The resources available are often limited. This should encourage you not to get carried away and set up a large number of specific developments. Try to avoid ending up with a long and highly varied list of objectives. Take advantage of the extent to which tools are well established and in place when running a pilot project. Make more use of the chosen solution than anything else. With these economies achieved, make sure you have others working alongside you in the process of bringing about change; because the success of a collaborative project is gauged by the extent to which practices are transformed.
The process of implementing collaborative tools is not just a project like any other, and if done successfully it will make it easier to bring about change with respect to future projects. For example, discussions will give rise to a sense of urgency; the process of choosing the key personnel involved will facilitate the formation of a coalition, and the existence of a dedicated community will enable the development of a vision. Internal communication will facilitate the sharing of this vision, which will be more easily adopted if it can be commented on, discussed and modified. Collaborative spaces will make it easier to run the pilot projects and drive them forward to achieve quick results, and the process of making the new practices widespread will be facilitated by internal communication and via ambassadors sharing their experiences. User guides and relevant knowledge and information will be shared, enabling new arrivals to more rapidly adopt the new company culture.
In short, the development of collaboration is both an end and a means at the same time. The path to achieving it is a long one that will demand perseverance from you but which will have an incredible impact on your organisation.