In three previous blogs (Collaboration – Not the Vichy Variety, AIIM’s Collaboration Definition and AIIM’s Life-Cycle Collaboration Model) I provided AIIM’s definition and life-cycle model of collaboration. While I like the AIIM definition, I find the life-cycle model confusing and a bit wanting. As a result, I would like to propose an alternative model for evaluating and managing organizational collaboration, the “Three P’s and a G over T Collaboration Model.” Graphically, it is presented as follows:
The model’s X-Axis considers collaboration from a time perspective (the ‘Over T’ part), namely the past, future and the present. The Y-Axis considers collaboration from the perspective of People, Product and Process (3 Ps). 3 Ps is a model used in quality management and other methodologies to describe the key fundamental building blocks of an organization. I have provided a definition for each in the above introduction graphic. The 3Ps describe how individuals (People) do stuff (Process) to make money/provide services (Product) so as to stay employed (a virtuous cycle). Overarching the model is the concept of Governance; e.g., who decides what stuff is done by whom to sell what?
Governance heavily influences collaboration; in particular whether it is nurtured, tolerated or heavily controlled. Every point along this continuum is valued. For example, if you are building the world’s first atomic bomb in the desert of the United States it would be best to control collaboration. But, if you are attempting to create a new open-source operating system to compete with Windows, well collaboration is something to be nurtured and with a minimum level of control.
Like any model, this is a simplification of reality but it allows us to focus on one perspective at a time. One question relating to the Time-dimension is why is the past important to collaboration? The answer is that human cultures (even corporate cultures) have long and relatively permanent memories. Changing these memories is difficult enough for an organization, it is even more difficult for a society. In his book, Outliers; The Story of Success; Malcolm Gladwell discusses how cultural patterns continue to echo in the members of a society – long after the need for a particular cultural norm has ceased to be overtly displayed (as an aside, if you have not read the book, I would strongly suggest you do – in particular why most professional hockey players are born within a few months of each other).
“Cultural legacies are power forces. They have deep roots and long lives. They persist, generation after generation, virtually intact, even as the economic and social and demographic conditions that spawned them have vanished, and they play such a role in directing attitudes and behaviour that we cannot make sense of our world without them. [p. 175]”
While an organization’s past is not nearly as strong as that of a society, it will still follow the same principles. Thus years of a non-collaborative environment within your company cannot be erased by hanging banners or a corporate memo saying otherwise. Conversely, a strong and functioning collaborative environment will survive – for a while at least – a new abusive or dysfunctional set of managers. Unfortunately the exchange rate of a ‘collaborative-culture’ to ‘non-collaborative-culture’ is not one for one.
In future blogs, I want to drill down a bit more on each cell of the model. As well, it would be interesting to explore that ability to measure ‘collaborative-ness’ within an organization using the model as a presentation construct. In the meantime, please post any thoughts you may have on the 3 Ps, a G over T collaboration Framework.