Creating Outlets for Cross-Functional Collaboration

Dr. Dan:  Yes, but…let’s ensure that the collaboration is more than singing Kumbay around the campfire while holding hands, shall we?

Dr. Dan Kirsch‘s insight:

Short blog post that nibbles at creating outlets for cross-functional collaboration.

Favorite quote: “Have you ever sat in a room with 10 of the most intelligent people you know? Or listened to leading experts on a panel at a conference? Think about what happens. It does not matter what their background is—whether they are chemists, social workers, engineers, artists, or psychologists —if you provide an outlet for them to share their experiences and learning with one another, you combine knowledge and allow the individuals to build off of each other’s ideas. The end result is a masterpiece.”

Collaboration is key to Knowledge Management, but what I think is missing in this blog post (and with many KM implementations) is a lack of a strategy for what collaboration needs to take place, and then the implementation strategy for ensuring that the desired collaboration not only takes place but also produces desired results.

To me, we’re back to talking about effective KM strategy.  Where we identify organizational Knowledge Gaps, and see where they lead us as far as Strategic Gaps.  Or we identify Strategic Gaps and then try to determine what Knowledge Gaps exist that impact the Strategic Gaps.  And by looking at all of that it should be a lot easier for the organization to then determine what implementation strategies will need to exist.  And in doing that, it may be determined that cross-functional collaboration may produce desireable results.

The problem though, as I’ve seen it, with just setting sail with the thought that cross-functional collaboration is that their isn’t typically much thought put into what the goals are.  Why you’re spending the time.  Some might suggest that any collaboration is a plus, but that is not much of a strategy.  Time is finite, and there is but just so much available in every workday.  So clearly you cannot spend ALL of your time (or anyone else’s) collaborating.  

Thus this becomes a bit of a time management problem — ensuring that the collaboration that occurs is more likely to produce the desired results.  Which means that when you discuss the need to collaborate, you probably should have a parallel conversation regarding what the intended outcomees would be — specifically, what organizational Knowledge and/or Strategic gaps is this particular collaboration effort intended to address.  What knowledge should be shared, captured, and so on.  And be sure to address the potential “what’s in it for me” factors else someone critical to the process may not see the need to participate.  Otherwise to those invited to participate in yet another collaboration session it may feel more like joining hands and singing Kumbay around the campfire….fun, but not much for producing results.

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About Dr. Dan Kirsch