With the advent of new technology and the ever-growing and increasing demands for top and bottom line growth without additional headcount, it has become the imperative for organisations to find more effective ways of improving organisational performance. Collaboration is therefore the new imperative to optimise and engage with talent wherever it sits within a business.
In Gary Hamel’s  interview distributed at the start of the Hackathon he talks about the need for a completely different mind-set for leaders and HR professionals to enable organisations to function more effectively in the future. Put quite simply he seems to be making the point that there is just too much for too few people at the top of an organisation to do and there is not enough for everyone else in the organisation to do effectively given the way in which organisations are currently structured.
Hamel observes that the team at the top get to know far too late what needs to be done in their organisation and he suggests that in order to survive in the future it is necessary to syndicate the work from the top and to move the boundaries of an organisation so that others can contribute their wisdom and experience. This will reduce the workload and ensure that matters get dealt with and resolved in a proactive and effective manner, by those who are best placed to do so.
In a similar vein, Peter Cheese  also states that he believes that to truly embed innovation and agility, we have to be able to collaborate, work across boundaries within and between organizations, to bring together disparate experiences and perspectives, and to properly empower people to come up with ideas and make change happen. In other words, we have to build different corporate cultures and ways of working.
Collaboration is perhaps the cornerstone of high performance and a potential proxy for engaged leadership, the effects of which permeate every activity within an organisation. Whilst there is no clearly defined prescriptive step-by-step process for creating a collaborative environment, an appropriate starting point could be the adoption of the Action Research model to provide guidance and a framework for HR practitioners to deliver sustainable organisational change.
Stringer  describes the aim of Action Research as “not to present finalised ‘answers’ to problems but to reveal the different truths and realities (constructions) held legitimately by different groups and individuals”. Action Research allows organisations to consider practical issues in context rather than starting from a specific disciplinary viewpoint. The transdisciplinary approach is pragmatic and does not focus on issues of ‘ultimate reality or grand theories about society’, but instead focuses on ‘what works and what is appropriate in particular contexts’. The key characteristics of the approach based on the work of McNiff and Whitehead  are set out below:
Figure 1 Action Research Model
Source McNiff, J and Whitehead, J (2011), 2nd Edition, All you need to know about Action Research
The model is iterative and allows for organisations to make progress and do ‘what works for them’ by involving individuals within the organisation as creators and owners of the change process.by working together to create a collaborative culture.
The following elements could be considered to be core components and part of the solution for delivering a collaborative organisation:
- Empower Employees - to co-create a shared belief system - it’s only by involvement that employees really engage and believe in the organisation’s values.
- Review the Rule Book - determine what can be controlled through values and delegated authority and devolve to the lowest possible level.
- Create Heterogeneous Teams - stimulate broader thinking by embracing diversity to mix and leverage the collective genius.
- Use the Power of Peers - to coach each other and develop relationships in different parts of the organization.
- Recognise Results - when collaborative efforts add value and ensure you celebrate the outputs.
- Encourage Employee Networks - design business and social events to maximise the opportunity for individuals to develop their formal and informal networks.
- Use Technology - to connect and harness the collective organisational intellect, via Yammer, Icon and others.
- Create a Sense of Community - use opportunities for employees to collaborate on Corporate Social Responsibility projects which they believe are worthwhile.
- Recognise Collaboration - by giving visibility and internal and external PR to those who go the extra mile to contribute to the organisation’s collaborative efforts.
- Provide Opportunity - by facilitating secondments to different functions and parts of the organisation to allow employees to develop a wider understanding of all activities.
- View the Organisation as Boundaryless - by encouraging employees to take a view and to contribute to wherever they feel they can add value.
- Colleagues as the Customer’s Champion - harness the knowledge from front-line employees who interact with customers - they often have a better view on how a customer uses an organisation’s products than any amount of organisational research can provide.
- Use Social Collaboration Tools - to crowd source responses from right across an organisation to contribute and develop solutions to particular problems or to contribute and evaluate pilot schemes.
- Use Profiling Instruments – to identify how relationships will work in teams and to ensure that everyone has a voice, irrespective of personality type or trait a link to one such model is provided here - Social Profile
- View the Organisation as Classless – the senior teams do not have a monopoly on great ideas.
- Liberate Potentia  – by coaching teams to break down silos, develop confidence and collaborate for results.
The Corporate Executive Board  model of High Performance provides an excellent example of how employee collaboration can positively impact the business.
Figure 2: Model of High Performance
Source the Corporate Executive Board – (2012) Driving Breakthrough Performance in the New Work Environment
Whilst it seems logical that collaboration would be a legitimate way for organisations and individuals within it to organise themselves and to cooperate to get work done; it seems that such a rational approach can be diametrically opposed to an organisational culture where individuals are keen to retain the status quo and traditional hierarchies in order to preserve their existing sources of power and authority. Creating a culture of collaboration is therefore an essential prerequisite for organisational change and development. Buchanan and Huczinski , make the point that:
“the effectiveness of any power base will rely on the parties’ relational construct and the individual perceptions of the followers. Such perceptions are described as being based on their relationship to the individual who has accumulated the power under a traditional hierarchical structure."
As the composition and make-up of a group's powerbase shifts to react to changing circumstances relationships are likely to change as followers perceive the power of existing leaders within the organisation changes and develops over time. Therefore an organisation seeking to maximise collaborative contributions must endeavour to ensure that it understands that change is continuous and that win-win solutions can be created for the benefit of all individuals as a more flexible structure allows it to remain competitive in the marketplace and guarantees the sustainability of the organisation in the future. However the dichotomy is if you are leader who perceives the loss of your followers to be an erosion of your power then you are unlikely to view relationships outside your immediate span of control as beneficial. With this in mind it is therefore essential to collaborate at the top first!
Start at the top first ‘followers mirror their leaders’  engage the ‘C.Suite’ look for the CEO to become the Chief Collaboration Officer. Thereafter,
- Recognise that culture change is hard and start with the people who want to collaborate. Employees early in their career are more likely to perceive a collaborative environment to be beneficial as instinctively they will feel that they have something to gain by learning from their peers.
- Design learning events to mix individuals from different levels of the business functions, and with different skill sets to ensure that both leadership and followership have a chance to leverage each other’s views and experiences.
- Design the appraisal process to “crowd source” feedback from all parts of an individuals’ network.
- Value and reward “Enterprise Contribution”.
- Design job descriptions to incorporate relationships and stipulate how and why these add value.
- Acknowledge that collaboration can involve conflict and provide a conflict resolution model to train teams to resolve conflict early before positions become too entrenched.
- Know when to collaborate and when not to, recognising that it is impractical to collaborate on everything. Use the Hansen  model below to evaluate the benefit of collaboration on large scale projects.
Project Opportunity =
Cost – Collaboration_
- Recruit individuals who value the opportunity to collaborate by using value based assessments in addition to traditional competency based interviewing.
- Ensure that collaboration plays a key part in the design of projects and ensure that potential sources of collaboration and working with internal partners is identified at the start of the process.
- As part of project evaluation include measures to understand who participants have worked with and whose views were sought in designing and delivering the end product or solution.
Design learning and organisational events to be fun and encourage enduring relationships which foster a culture
‘Where Everyone Counts'
 Hamel, G (2013) on Syndicating the Work of Leadership, Leaders Everywhere Challenge, Management, Innovation eXchange (MIX) May 26 2013,Management Innovation eXchange, Boston, MA 02116-3934
 Cheese,P (2013), 20th May, What’s so hard about managing change and becoming more agile? CIPD, Hackathon Challenge
 Stringer, E.T (2007) Action Research, 3rd Edition, Thousand Oaks, C A:Sage
 McNiff, J and Whitehead, J (2011), 2nd Edition, All you need to know about Action Research, Sage Publications Ltd, London
 Willcock,D. (2013) Collaborating for Results: Silo Working and Relationships that Work, Gower Publishing, Farnham, Surrey and at Liberating Potential Ltd.
 Corporate Executive Board,(2012),Driving Breakthrough Performance in the New Work Environment, Corporate Leadership Council, London
 Buchanan, D. and Huczynski, A. (2010) Organisational Behaviour, Seventh Edition, Harlow, Pearson Education Ltd.
 Ibarra,H. and Hansen, M.T. (2011) Are You A Collaborative Leader? Harvard Business Review July-August. Reprint R1107D, Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, Massachusetts
 Hansen, M.T., (2009),When Internal Collaboration Is Bad for your Company, Harvard Business Review, April. Reprint R0904G, Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, Massachusetts