Culture & Competency

The Seven Habits (??) of Highly Effective Collaborators – Think Organizations, Not People

Hyoun from Aberdeen proposes a list of seven habits that highly effective collaborative organizations enact:

… we focused on the plight of the Laggards: the bottom 30% of our respondents. These companies averaged a revenue loss of 7% last year and had very little quantitative value associated with their collaborative efforts. They tended to reply on traditional telecom, mobility and web portals for collaboration to the exclusion of social business software and content management solutions.

Despite these limitations, Laggards have actually spent more money on deploying and supporting their core collaboration technologies on a per employee basis. Somehow, they have mastered the unholy downward spiral of spending more and doing less. To get out of this trap and begin using the habits of highly effective companies, Aberdeen makes the following observations:

Hyoun says the 7 habits are:
– 1. don’t just work hard, work smart
– 2. partition collaborative goals into appropriate categories
– 3. identify the appropriate tools for each enterprise collaboration category
– 4. just do it!
– 5. build a social life (integrated with your enterprise collaboration approach)
– 6. use collaboration to drive product development and R&D efforts
– 7. think of your salespeople as wolves. Like wolves, salespeople hunt better in packs

My Comments
1. I’m uncomfortable with the assertion that the laggards have a “collaboration problem.” Perhaps it’s a business strategy problem. Perhaps it’s a shrinking market problem. Perhaps it’s a marketing problem. There may be a correlation between poor use of collaboration tools and revenue growth – as is asserted – but there would need to be a lot more work done to ascertain causation.

2. In my view, there is an overemphasis on technology in this article, to the exclusion of business and human factors. Eg., #1 re meetings and working together, the problem could be lack of a clear framework for decision rights, or poor selection of people to work together … both of which are business and human things rather than technology issues … and thus the tools are irrelevant.

3. The target audience for the article is unclear. Is it the collaboration strategist (for habits 1-3)? Is it the individual end user (for habit 4)? Is it the IT department (for habit 5)?

4. I’m not sure the word “habit” is the right one for this list. “Habit” has the sense of a particular behavior pattern, repeated regularly. Per my item 3 above, I see this list as “Three things to do when creating a collaboration strategy” (Habits 1-3 and 6, but more is required), “One way to annoy your IT Department” (Habit 4), “Install social business software and you’ll be wonderful” (Habit 5 – but I don’t believe it), and “Use collaborative processes with collaboration technology can make you great” (Habit 7 – true in some situations, not in all – probably the most “habit”-like one of all).

5. This line in habit 6 is “interesting”: “ … one of the sharpest divides among maturity classes was in how companies defined their collaborative ROI. Only 20% of the Industry Average indicated that collaboration provided accelerated product development compared to 84% of Best-in-Class companies.” I don’t have access to the way the question was asked of the survey respondents, but it looks like a self-measured scale … which is open to all sorts of manipulation and bias. What evidence was required to substantiate the answer?

6. When I first started reading this article, I thought Hyoun was going to talk about the “habits” of people being collaborative, which is an interest of mine. I think there are certain “habits” that people being collaborative need. See my 2007 article, The Four Habits of an Effective Collaborative Individual. For more on the human practices of collaboration, see my resource center on the topic.

3 replies »

  1. Collaboration is what we need to get things done effectively, that’s why with my clients and team members we use Teambox, a free project software for online collaboration and project management that is improving the way we work, we don’t used email anymore we use

  2. Michael,
    Thanks for the thoughtful insight, which I actually largely agree with. My focus is on enterprise-wide collaboration, so some of these “habits” have to be aimed at groups rather than individuals. I was trying to keep the post to ~1000 words, but left out some of the details from the main paper and primary research. To start with:
    The Laggards weren’t just companies that had low (or negative) growth; they also were unable to equate their current collaboration investments with quantitative return and had more problems getting in touch with each other.
    Tools aren’t useful without a framework. It’s something I’d mentioned in my earlier posts, but should have repeated in this one as well. But I’ve also seen that framework without tools does not scale and breaks under geographic duress.
    For me, “just do it” is an entrepreneurial habit that often separates action from theory. And the “social life” is more than just software; it’s also possible to acquire a number of these technologies freely or cheaply and then create the appropriate culture but the platform makes implementation easier, especially for distributed organizations.
    At the same time, I’ll be completely honest and say that not all of these are habits that are individual in nature and that the experiences associated with each of these can vary widely based on the organization and the business pressures. As always, I’d be glad to chat further on how this changes based on the business. But it’s this iterative and communicative process that makes all of us better at collaborating and telling the story accurately.

  3. Hyoun,
    I so appreciate you dropping by, and sharing your response above. It’s helpful to get additional insight from you – beyond your 1000 word limit on the original.
    It appears we agree about many things, and it will be fun at some point to discuss the areas of differing perspective.