I am cross posting this from the Fast Forward blog as i would like to get your perspective. Is there tension in enterprise collaboration? Is collaboration and business processes an oxymoron.? Bruce Lewin writes the blog, Four Groups and he recently posted a long piece on The Tension in Collaboration. He started with these four questions:
Should we be putting people first, before technology, in our efforts to collaborate?
Does collaboration benefit from a more formal process?
Can collaboration be encouraged in a replicable and systematic manner (as much as anything concerning people can be repeatable and systematic)?
Does the lack of a formal process for optimizing collaboration hold back productivity and performance?
Bruce begins with the Wikipedia definition of collaboration (abbreviated to “recursive process where two or more people work together toward an intersection of common goals”) and notes that Google offers 26 different definitions and many of them have a nature of informality included. He summarizes the issue with this statement, “an inherent contrast lies at the heart of organizational collaboration, namely how to manage and ‘control’ something that is by definition informal, ad hoc and spontaneous?”
Bruce notes that the new enterprise 2.0 facilitates collaboration and all the technology providers are moving in this direction. I agree with built in collaboration features make spontaneous collaboration more possible and likely. But Bruce says that more is needed and I agree here, also. Business processes need to allow for “gaps” where collaboration can occur and not be an enemy of collaboration in the name of efficiency.
People are the most important component. To optimize their participation, Bruce feels that training, motivation, and trust are essential. There is much more in the post. I appreciate the recognition that there is tension between informal collaboration and formal business process. The enterprise 2.0 tools allow greater opportunities for collaboration but businesses need to enable these moments to occur. It is not technology alone.
Have you seen this tension in operation? What has happen and what can be done?
Post Script see Jack Vinson's Dealing with process and practice around collaboration for an extension of this conversation.