Many companies struggle with their attempts to develop a positive environment for sharing and collaborating. Typically the road blocks are cultural, no business plan and partly due to lack of technology. For the most part, the road blocks consist of attitude (Hoard to protect my job), performance metrics (how do i measure value) and corporate culture (lack of Mgmt support).

For example, I know of people that won’t share their knowledge becuase they believe it protects their job. I can say that I’ve witnessed this in action where I work. Employees were let go and then senior management discovers that the last remaining techies for a product are gone! Middle management quickly tried to hire them back, some accepted and some walked. For the most part though, open sharing and collaborating will have a more positive effect on your career than not.

Another example is a company that didn’t support knowledge management (KM) in general but a business unit required it to do business efficiently since their business was all about knowledge. The core problem with the business units KM program didn’t link the value of KM to tangible benefits such as completing proposal faster (reduced cost of sale), completing consulting reports faster (meeting deadlines), on-boarding new consultants faster (succession planning) and solving problems quicker (improved client responsiveness, quicker R&D turn around).  Think cost savings, improved onboarding, improved service levels, faster development of products and services.

Another example is of a global IT department for a large Accounting company, the Managing Director walked the floor with a pad of paper taking note of people that were not sitting at their desk. He would assemble a spreadsheet and circulate it with office management and HR. He would also keep a spreadsheet listing gossip about people and circulate that as well – management didnt support their staff. How do you think that impacted the collaborative spirit?

A final example whereby the executive team announced a KM program (Communities, discussion forums, knowledge briefs etc…) and told staff to participate in the program. They did since it was a chance to learn and share. Management quickly realized employees staff was participating and believed it compromised their bottom line (lost productivity) and penalized staff.

Whats the takeaway? Often your biggest problem with adoption is often related to your management team. Immature leadership skills, bad habits, excessive egos all add up and create roadblocks. You can have the best technology but with a management team like this you wont get traction. Hence why HR needs to be involved to educate, include and guide and perhaps in some cases replace management positions with more progressive types.

Here are three ways to create a positive collaboration and knowledge sharing environment:

  • Add collaboration and knowledge sharing skills and feedback to the employees (and management) performance evaluation.
    • Communicate with staff the intention to measure their performance
    • Send a consistent message through the ranks
    • Establish tools for capturing and measuring contributions
    • Encourage cross boundary sharing collaboration
    • Utilize tools that enable discovery and allow collaboration
    • Capture metrics that show value such as reduced time writing proposals, finding subject matter experts and leveraging IP (Value pricing)
  • Utilize communities for professions, job functions and other interests.
    • Create a set of competencies to act as an incentive for leaders
    • Facilitate the process of continuous sharing and support these efforts
    • Inject high energy people into these groups
    • Create a mentoring network
    • Capture metrics that show value
  • Add more ambitious objectives for more people.
    • Mandate managers to support the sharing of knowledge and collaboration
    • Goal staff on the sharing of knowledge and collaboration
    • Time must be set aside to; 1) provide staff with time for sharing and 2) time reporting codes provided for tracking specific sharing and collaboration activities
    • Managers should help cut through politics and facilitate the way for employees

Overall sharing and collaboration is (will be) a core behavior for staff and management. The first challenge will be assembling a management team that believes this and acts on it.  The second will be assembling a plan for the program that can show measurable results such as quicker success planning, reducing travel costs, completing job tasks faster due to have access to expertise, reducing training costs, completing proposals faster and with better quality and lower attrition rates. The third will be fostering the culture required to establish sharing and collaboration given that some will be familiar, some wont and some will be tainted based on prior experiences in other organizations.