When managers see collaboration as an end in itself, they lose sight of the big picture.
By Kathleen Melymuka
Collaboration is good, and more collaboration is better, right? Wrong, says Morten T. Hansen in this month's Harvard Business Review. Managers sometimes forget that collaboration is a means to an end, he says. The end is business value, and not all collaboration produces it; in fact, some collaboration can actually destroy value.
Hansen talked with Kathleen Melymuka about how to spot destructive collaboration.
Your article seems heretical. How can internal collaboration be counterproductive?
People engage in cross-unit projects that turn out to cost more than the value they produce. Sometimes they drank the Kool-Aid that collaboration is great and we must do more, and they start collaborating on projects that have marginal value to begin with.
You say that managers shouldn't be asking, "How can we get people to collaborate more?" What should they ask?
"How can we instill the right kind of collaboration so we increase results?" The consequence of asking the second question is that you also ask, "When should we not do it?"
The goal of collaboration is not collaboration; it's results. It follows that to master collaboration is to know when not to do it.