Collaboration Anti-Culture: Can It Get Any Worse?

Culture is really important for collaboration technology to work in a group or organization. If the culture isn’t right, “collaboration” as a human process expressed through various communication and collaboration technologies can’t take root. I met with a new client earlier this week to talk about a senior management attempt to encourage “collaboration”, but the stories the two people I met with told about the organizational culture made me write the following back to them:

  • “Collaboration” will fail at your firm, because of lack of trust. Eg, the remote offices mistrust head office, which means there are some major interpersonal issues to overcome.
  • “Collaboration” will fail at your firm, because of lack of freedom. Eg, you two are hand-slapped for going to talk to other people at head office (talk!). Collaborative activity doesn’t flourish in tightly controlled environments / dictatorships.
  • “Collaboration” will fail at your firm, because of lack of two-way communication channels. Eg, you aren’t allowed to talk to or engage with the remote offices (the very people who you are supposed to be helping to “collaborate”).
  • I didn’t add it at the time, but I should have also said: “Collaboration” will fail at your firm, because you are scared about being overheard by other people. Eg, during the meeting, both people lowered their voice when they were telling stories about how way things worked at the firm.

So … four big strikes against “collaboration” (co-work, joint effort, pulling towards a shared and embraced vision):
1. Mistrust
2. Dictator-style leadership
3. No communication
4. Fear.

And senior management thinks they’ll be able to implement “collaboration” by using collaboration technology? Yeah right … I think not.

0 thoughts on “Collaboration Anti-Culture: Can It Get Any Worse?

  1. I agree also Michael. I read somewhere, probably endusersharepoint, that SharePoint can only mirror the organizational synergies or lack thereof (my own words here but it was something like that). I wrote about this myself in my company blog on SharePoint. When I am asked for advice on blogs, discussion boards and team Wiki sites I always recommend that they leave it completely open and just monitor the posts. In my experience I’ve never had anything posted to any of my sites which I needed to censor (this is on an intranet after all). On the other hand, I have witnessed brilliant ideas sparked by a few message board posts which resulted in changes in the way we do business across the company.

  2. Great post, Michael.
    I would create a question from each of the four points. Ask them the qeustions, so they have think about what they are doing. Let them answer each question by themselves and where is the opportunity. Even if it takes weeks or month. I believe there is no other way to change thier behavior.

  3. Interestingly the feedback we get on the implementation of PleaseReview (collaborative document review) in some organisations is that having a collaborative document review solution does modify user behaviour in that people are a lot more thoughtful in their comments when they know their peers (not just the author) will see them. We use this behaviour modification as a benefit in our pitch :~)

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