Collaborative Work Systems

Collaboration is a simple idea; it’s people working together to achieve a shared goal.   And while collaboration may be simple in concept, getting people aligned and organized to work together can be challenging.  On the upside, organizing for collaboration can reap the benefits of a loyal customer base, engaged employees, and growth in profits. 

Building a sustainable collaborative work system requires action in several key areas of an organization.  A place to start work is where achieving excellent organization performance is only possible when individuals or departments are collaborating effectively.   Research studies on factors contributing to on-time airline departures, effective surgical care and medical care, have demonstrated that performance improves when people working in interdependent roles work to a shared set of goals, possess a shared knowledge and respect for each other’s work, and communicate accurate information that is frequent, timely, and enables effective problem-solving (Gittell, 2012). 

Starting with teams that have direct responsibility for producing products, providing service directly to customers (or patients) is an important place to initiate collaborative approaches to work, but there are other options and opportunities for collaboration.  Looking beyond teams at the “ground floor”, there are always opportunities to improve collaboration across the boundaries inside an organization, between functional areas, in mid-level management where progress can often reach a sticking point.  The benefits of collaboration can also be gained by working closely with customers and suppliers to develop new products or to improve quality and services. 

Sustaining a collaborative work system requires that leaders make some key decisions about; how leaders will lead, determining what level of involvement employees will have in decision making, how to establish goals and a performance management system that encourages and rewards collaboration, reshaping knowledge management and communication processes, investing in collaboration training and coaching.

The Mayer Group, Inc.