Collaboration: six mistakes to avoid

‘Collaboration’, broadly defined as two or more organisations working together in partnership, continues to be a hot topic in our sector. They can be hard, requiring time, money and effort. But they are also an opportunity to leverage the different strengths of organisations, achieving goals that would otherwise be out of reach.

Much of SVA Consulting’s recent work has focused on helping organisations explore how collaboration could contribute to their strategy; some have been extremely successful, while others have struggled to overcome significant hurdles. This experience has revealed some of the common mistakes made by organisations when trying to collaborate. In the latest issue of the SVA Quarterly, we shared some of these lessons, in the hope that this will help others avoid making the same mistakes.

Mistake #1: Collaborating because it ‘seems like a good idea’

Before turning to collaboration, make sure you understand what you hope to achieve, and how collaboration will help you reach your goals. Invest in exploring the ‘why’ and avoid the temptation to rely on broad assumptions.

Mistake #2: Ignoring the structure and processes

Make sure you explore the ‘how’ early in the design process, as this has a significant impact on the collaboration and what benefits it will produce. Different structures will require different processes, and some structures will be better suited to achieving certain outcomes.

Mistake #3: Rushing it

Put simply, don’t rush it. Give yourself enough time to create your collaborative effort and achieve your objectives. If you find yourself rushed by external factors, be realistic about what you can achieve in the given timeframes and look for ways to build on this down the track.

Mistake #4: Not investing sufficient resources

For a collaboration to succeed, there must be a realistic understanding of what investment is required and agreement about who will provide it. The project must also be prioritised by each of the organisations. This will ensure that the required resources are dedicated to achieving the mutually beneficial objectives.

Mistake #5: Leaving the hard conversations to the end

When contemplating collaboration, organisations must identify the big, tricky issues early on and address them, or at least understand how they may impact the process and agree a strategy for resolution. This will either allow the issues to be overcome or demonstrate that the relationship cannot move forward and save everyone time and resources.

Mistake #6: Not bringing your people on the journey

A new collaboration will almost certainly require some level of organisational change. Whenever change is involved, with the fear of loss, it is imperative to bring employees and other key stakeholders along on the journey. Without their support, if not their enthusiasm, the collaboration will not succeed.

What other mistakes have you see in the sector, and how can these be avoided?

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