Managing Collaboration

My colleague Jane Hart asks who should be your Chief Collaboration Officer (CCO)? It’s a good question, given the growing importance of working collaboratively in the 21st century workplace. Collaboration is a key part of creative work. Hugh Macleod pretty well sums up the core of the networked enterprise with this image:

We live in a most interesting time in history.  With the Internet, never before has it been so easy to collaborate, yet within many organizations it’s often more difficult. A CCO could be a role that helps with the transition to a more collaborative workplace, but do we really need more managers? Two comments on Jane’s post raise this question as well:

Jay Cross: “Companies have to make a profit but they don’t have Chief Profit Officers. Workers must be motivated but there aren’t any Chief Motivation Officers.”

Tim Hickernell: “Chief Collaboration Officer? The hierarchy is the problem, not the solution. Collaboration Strategy, yes; CCO; no.

It’s that darn hierarcrhy thing. As you soon as you try to address a problem, it gets more complicated, because that’s what conventional management does. It adds an extra layer of taxation. But information technology has made management [not leadership] redundant, as Sigurd Rinde explains in Let the Managers Go:

Outside the corporate world, in places with fewer habits and assumed truths, IT has shown way more promise: we can communicate and collaborate with people all over the world in a gazillion ways, we have the “cloud”, we have tablets and smartphones, we have all kinds of technological power. But in the corporate world we still run workflows using doughnuts and stern looks. That’s silly. And amazingly ineffective.

Do you need a Chief Collaboration Officer? Yes, if the CCO is focused on putting the position out of business and is seen as a temporary and transitionary role. The CCO can be the person who has a high profile and can model the new collaborative behaviours. This can take some time but, like raising children, should not take forever. So get a CCO, set up a dance hall, throw some parties, mix things up, and see what happens. Keep your CCO in perpetual Beta.

What you should not do is get a CCO with the primary task of implementing some costly  enterprise collaboration software system. That is definitely putting the cart before the horse – but there are many who will counsel this approach. Caveat emptor!

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