Culture & Competency


Morten Hansen and Scott Tapp asked recently, Who should be your Chief Collaboration Officer?

Companies need an executive responsible for integrating the enterprise — a Chief Collaboration Officer (CCO). Increasingly, companies are embracing collaboration as part of their strategy to grow, by cross-selling products to existing customers and innovating through the recombination of existing technologies. But this won’t work unless employees work effectively across silos — across sales offices, business units, sales, product development, and marketing.

And who’s in charge of such an effort?

Morten and Scott are not the first to ask the question – that very question has been asked at conferences before (Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston in 2007, for example), and I have heard various arguments for and against it.

I’m against the idea of a specific role (as Morten and Scott are), and I think the CEO should do it (unlike Morten and Scott).

Here’s my thinking:

  • Collaboration is about people working together to improve business value. Someone at the top sets and models the culture of how that happens, or doesn’t happen. If the top-level support is not there, lower-level attempts to collaborate may be quashed.
  • Separating the “CCO” as a role/function signals that it is something different and unusual. That it’s not a normal part of business or operations. And it should be. Every executive needs collaboration competencies, as Morten so well outlines in his book, Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results.
  • The CEO’s role is to set the tone for how the organization works to achieve its strategic objectives. This translates to hiring key people, structuring the organization appropriately, setting the culture, championing pan-organizational change initiatives, and more. Collaboration can be integral to these activities, or not. Think John Chambers at Cisco as a CEO that has set the collaboration agenda for a large organization.
  • If collaboration is “business-as-usual” then a special role is not needed. If it’s not, then high-level support is essential. For organizations making the transition from non-collaborative to collaborative, perhaps an “irritant” role is required – the person who champions the idea at every meeting and opportunity. That could be the CEO, or it could be a “Director of Special Projects” type person.

Perhaps a better way to approach the question is to move the words around:
– rather than it being a question of the Chief Collaboration Officer,
– it is an offer of the chief collaboration question.

And that question is, “Where are the opportunities for improving business value from collaboration within our organization?” In my view, that’s a question every executive should be asking, but the CEO plays a core role in creating the environment in which it can be asked and explored.

4 replies »

  1. Hi Michael. This is precisely the role of the folks who belong to The 2.0 Adoption Council. And “irritant” is a great descriptor, although I’m glad you said it, not me. Many of them self-describe as “troublemakers.” What some of these folks with a little ambition and a lot of courage have been able to pull off is quite simply, game and world-changing. I look forward to meeting you in person at the next e20 conference.

  2. Thanks Susan … good to hear more about the work of the council. I have enjoyed my conversations with some of the members.
    And, yes, I’m hoping to attend / speak at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston in June 2011. Will be good to meet you there.

  3. 1) When you are in Boston we should meet up!
    2) I agree especially with the point of ‘separating collaboration responsibility’ just doesn’t make sense. I have seen many organizations not only talk about this at the C level but also ensuring that in new job descriptions there is actual items that say they are in charge of owning, distributing, managing and organizing their own information. 🙂
    3) I hope to be at E 2.0 in June as well!