Kayleigh O’Keefe of the the Communication Executive Council recently published a thought-proving piece on the territorial debate about ownership of communication as it relates to the agile enterprise. It is a good representation of the two camps that communication leaders often align with – ‘domination’ versus ‘collaboration’.
I’ve worked with organisations where collaboration was as natural to the culture as breathing, and others where collaboration was seen to herald the arrival of the apocalypse. My response to Kayleigh’s piece is based on seeing the extremes:
“Perhaps some of the communicators in ‘camp comms’ are those pioneers who fought hard for a seat at the table in tough environments. Organisations get better outcomes when they consist of communities rather than camps.
As organisations strive to find the edge in terms of innovation, agility and performance, collaboration will become a core differentiator. It delivers more sustainable outcomes, builds capability and is fundamentally engaging.
Mature, strategic communication functions are in a unique position to model collaborative capability without resorting to resource-depleting internal competition.
Drawing on skills in consulting, engaging, involving, coaching, facilitating, negotiating, listening, amplifying and sharing, mature communicators have the opportunity to foster and build collaborative organisations.
However, be prepared:
1. Collaboration takes longer – the first time. But as it is practiced, the skills, behaviours and culture that form the bones, muscles and fuel of collaboration start to adapt and become match-fit. Join camp collaboration early – before your organisation is in a capability crisis. Start ‘flexing and stretching’.
2. Collaboration must be more than a mindset. There is an inherent paradox involved in effective collaboration. Organisational collaboration must begin with intent, but it only ‘exists’ through activity and outputs. Something is created by shared intent AND skill AND effort – collaboratively.
3. Know your organisational limits. Everything we know about communication and leadership starting at the top is even more important for collaboration. Senior/exec/C-Suite open and authentic collaboration is the price of admission. If they can’t co-create, the chances of successfully building a collaborative capability approach zero.
Collaboration is a skill that organisations can practice and must learn in order survive for the long term.”
We need role models to show the results of collaboration in organisational terms. I am co-chairing some of the sessions of Melcrum’s Employee Engagement Summit in Melbourne next week. I find it promising that there are parties from all the camps among the case studies: communication, change, human resources and C-level leaders are represented, sharing their stories. I’m looking forward to hearing them.