Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Enterprise 2.0 and Collective Collaboration – Part I

The term "collaboration" is commonly used to describe the coordination of actions within a team, such as a business team or project team, that work towards a common goal. But I haven’t really found a good term or expression to describe the kind of collaboration that extends beyond the members of your closest team(s).

I had a good discussing about this subject with Laurence Hart (@piewords) on Twitter earlier today. We tried expressions such as “emergent collaboration”, “extended collaboration” or “enterprise collaboration”, but none of them felt right.

Laurence suggested that “the key may be to find the biggest flaw implied by collaboration and pick an adjective that is the opposite.” Good idea… the flaw I was trying to address was that when a team focuses too much on its own team-specific goals, it often leads to sub-optimization, waste, redundant work, bad decision-making, and so forth - stuff that all decrease the team's contributions to the common good. The team focuses on what is best for the team, not on what’s best for the enterprise as collective.

We both agreed it was worth taking “collective collaboration” for a spin.

The first thing I did after our discussion was to take a closer look at the definition of the term “collective” and I settled with this one from The Free Dictionary:

col·lec·tive (k-lktv)

1. Assembled into or viewed as a whole.

2. Of, relating to, characteristic of, or made by a number of people acting as a group: a collective decision.

Judging from this definition, the term “collective” could very well be used to describe an enterprise when seen as a number of people viewed as a whole. Tom Graves recently shared this definition of “enterprise” from the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework via Twitter (@tetradian):

Enterprise: an organization (or cross-organizational entity) supporting a defined business scope and mission. An enterprise includes interdependent resources (people, organizations, and technology) who must coordinate their functions and share information in support of a common mission (or set of related missions).

The expression “collective collaboration” would then describe a situation when all the people in an enterprise, viewed as a whole, work together to support the defined mission of the enterprise, one where employees always have the common good in mind, whatever they do.

This might sound like Utopia; ideal but impracticable. However, the point here is merely that by improving collective collaboration, collaboration that goes beyond ones closest team(s), an enterprise can increase the sum of all contributions to the common good. It is not about achieving an ideal state, but rather about trying to minimize sub-optimization, duplicate work, waste, bad decision making, and so on that come as a result of teams focusing too much on their own goals.

Improving collective collaboration would require that the overall mission is clearly communicated and always present, but also that collective collaboration is reflected in values, objectives, practices and incentive models. This way, it will become a part of the culture of the enterprise. After having worked with IKEA for several years (an enterprise which actually consists of a multitude of organizations), I know how important this is (at the IKEA head office, you can't even go to the bathroom without seeing their mission and values).

The culture also needs to be characterized by participation, openness, trust, and recognition of all contributions by teams and individuals that increase the common good. These, to me, are all core Enterprise 2.0 principles.

In my next post, I will use a number of illustrations to illustrate how collective collaboration can be improved with the help from Enterprise 2.0 technologies.