5 Collaborative Principles to Guide You on Your Collaborative Journey

Organizations are complex.

483171893Every organization has a purpose, with an end goal of providing a product and or service for-a-profit or not-for-a-profit.

One of the most important activities carried out minute-by-minute, day-in and day-out, by all organizations is communication. Communication within the organization and outside of the organization. Communication about every single aspect of the business, about and with every single customer and supplier the organization touches.

Many of the biggest challenges in an organization boil down to ineffective communication in the form of:

  • Mis-communication
  • A breakdown in communication
  • Poor communication
  • Missed communication
  • Lack of communication
  • Incomplete communication

You get the idea. And you have probably experienced one or more of these communication problems yourself.

If an organization can communicate better, then it can perform better. Poor communication can be disastrous and effective communication can propel an organization forward.

Much of management time is spent on fixing problems related to poor communication and on the flip side, proactively making the organization’s communication better.   You can make communication better in your organization by fixing the types of problems described above. I can think of three broad categories for improved communication:

  1. Training: Communication can be enhanced by training your employees to communicate better – presenting, running meetings, writing, goal setting and many other soft skills.
  2. Process: Putting processes in place to ensure the right steps are understood and the required communication is executed so all parts of an organization are in sync as it carries out day-to-day business.
  3. Technology: You can make communication better by giving your employees better tools with which to communicate.

training process technology
All three categories can make communication better in your organization, but only technology can transcend its category and affect the other two categories by enabling better processes and more cost effective training. This is especially true in more traditional organizations where the processes are hardened and training is already well ingrained into the culture of the organization.

True collaboration is one of the most effective and advanced forms of communication, capable of transforming companies and spawning new industries.

I have identified five guiding collaborative principles that are important to understand if you are trying to increase the collaboration capabilities of your organization or business ecosystem.

Why are they important?

Applying these principles will increase the velocity of collaboration in your organization and quickly move you toward having an Optimized Corporate Collaborative environment. And companies that collaborate better outperform their peers by 3 to 6 times.

The Five Guiding Principles for Accelerated Collaboration

  1. Shift to “real time” communication – The more you can move your communication to real-time by using better communications tools, the better your organization will collaborate
  2. Build “rich” communication experiences between people – Richer personal communication experiences optimize your organization’s collaboration
  3. Target high ROI collaboration benefits – Productivity and strategic change enabled by better collaborative communications tools will provide a much higher return on investment (ROI) than operational savings.  And higher ROI is a direct reflection of accelerated collaboration.
  4. Compress Process Timeframes – How? By building communications tools into those processes. Communications tools applied to processes will provide a much higher ROI than communications tools that enable user productivity
  5. Small Teams – When teams grow beyond a certain size, the effectiveness of communication and collaboration breaks down. This phenomenon has been discovered and tapped into by some of the greatest innovators in history, e.g. Thomas Edison and Jeff Bezos.

Each one of these principles is explained in greater detail below and links are provided for further in-depth exploration.

1) Shift to Real-Time Communication

I define communication between people as a shared experience. Communications on the other hand, is how those people share the experience. This blog explores this concept in much greater detail. The blog shows how real-time communication, enabled by real-time communications tools, accelerates collaboration.

The more you can move your communication to real-time by using better communications tools, the greater the increase in the velocity of collaboration in an organization.

2) Richness of Communication

“The richer the communication, the closer the communication becomes to being there.” This is the essence of why you want to use communications tools that enable richness of communication. Here is a blog that explains “Richness of Communication” in detail.

The richer the communication experience the greater the increase in the velocity of collaboration.

The formula, explained in the blog, is:


3) Target High ROI Collaboration Benefits

Increasing the velocity of collaboration in your organization will enable it to evolve from its current ecosystem to a highly collaborative ecosystem. Filigree Consulting calls a highly evolved Collaborative Ecosystem an “Optimized Corporate Collaborative Environment,” which is found in 3% of all organizations. On the other hand an organization with very little collaborative development is called an “Unsupported or Non-Integrated Collaborative Environment,” which in turn is found in more than 70% of all organizations.   You can read more about Filigree’s results and how organizations that collaborate better perform better in many ways in this blog.

ROI pyramidThere are three categories of ROI that you can capture by evolving the collaboration in your business ecosystem:

  1. Operational: Cost Avoidance and Cost Reduction
  2. Productivity: Business Optimization and Accelerated Decision Making
  3. Strategic: Business Transformation and Customer Satisfaction

These three categories, defined by Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese of Cisco, are further detailed in this blog. Operational benefits are usually focused on first as they represent something that is more tangible or the proverbial “low hanging fruit”. But the really big savings are realized as you progress to Productivity and Strategic ROI.

The biggest mistake organizations make while enabling their ecosystem with better collaboration tools is to focus on costs: Costs of the technology and only deploying to avoid other costs.

The real gold is found in the realization of Productivity and Strategic ROI.

4) Compress Process Timeframes

Real use case application of UC tools shows that when you give people new communications tools, especially those that allow them to have richer, real-time (or close to real-time) communication they will increase their productivity by 15-30%. In the Unified Communications world this is known as providing UC tools for Users or UC-U.

rol-benefitsApplying the same UC tools to an organization’s business processes can provide business return on investment (ROI) in excess of 1,000%, but more often in the 50% – x00%. This is known as UC-B. There is significantly more ROI in UC-B than in UC-U, because you are re-engineering processes based on the new capabilities communications technology enables. Here is a blog by Marty Parker of UC Strategies who has championed the concept of UC-U and UC-B and which further explains the difference and the associated ROI. The graph shown here is from Marty’s blog and was developed by Blair Pleasant, of COMMfusion LLC.

Although UC-U and UC-B are both are good investments, UC-B provides the better ROI by far.

5) Smaller Teams Collaborate More Effectively

This principle is pretty clear, but if you would like to understand the dynamics behind this concept in greater detail, please see this blog and learn about the “2 Pizza Rule”.

Evidence shows that a fully optimized collaborative organization will outperform its peers by 3 to 6 times and produce spectacular ROI results.

What has worked for you? Please share your experiences with increasing collaboration in your organization.

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