Developing Togetherness?

Collaborate Values are the most sought after culture shifts by employees in today's business world. This is intriguing to us as we find that collaborate cultures are some of the most difficult to take advantage of agile ways of working. Seem like a contradiction? Read more to find out...

Why The Desire for Collaborate Values?

In our back-of-the-envelope analysis, collaborate values tend to be the most sought after values by employees we survey. The question is why? Is it due to a lack of connectedness in a digital global world? Is it the breakdown of the family support system? Is it that organizations are typically industrial complexes of functional and departmental silos? Is it that people are treated as a number, a cog in a wheel? Likely there are factors present in all of these hypotheses.

Why Do Collaborative Cultures Have Difficulty with Agile?

As we mentioned above, this seems like a contradiction. Collaboration and Team are at the heart of agility most represented in the Scrum Framework. Collaboration is rooted in the Agile Manifesto – “Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation”.

Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
– the fourth principle of the Agile Manifesto

Recognize the rest of the collaborative value system. Collaborative values also encourage giving everyone a voice, sticking together no matter what, we are a family, we support each other, and so on. We often associate family values as healthy, fun, safe, engaging homes. However, consider your extended family gatherings. How healthy, fun, safe and engaging do they feel? That’s right. Extended Families have a lot of conflict because we cannot choose our family members. Many family cultures exhibit this same hidden conflict, because they stick together for so long, they have past the point of dealing with conflict and it becomes unhealthy.

Recognize also the collaborative’s position relative to competitive. They are opposites. That means that the values of a competitive culture are about speed, quickness, nimbleness, winning, being first, being best, and more. Thus, collaborative cultures tend to be fairly slow. Giving everyone a voice and making sure everyone is on the same page takes a lot of time. I hear complaints often of collaborative cultures who say “All we do is talk, talk talk. We never decide and move forward.”

It is for these reasons of non-addressed conflict and making sure everyone is on board that limits collaborative cultures towards agile ways of working. The lack of speed and ability to break old ways of working hinders their experimenting and iterating on new ways of working.

So What Can We Do?

There are two perspectives to consider here: non-collaborative cultures seeking to strengthen collaborative values, and collaborative cultures seeking to balance their over-collaborative value system. In both cases, the experiments below are likely to help.

Both-And Thinking

Regarding of culture shaping direction, one of the keys to successful shaping is both-and thinking. Both-And thinking provides an opportunity to explore the value system without completely letting go of the counter value system. For example, increasing innovation without increasing risk would be exploring safe experiments.

Salesforce.com had a dominant competitive value system and sought out increased collaborative values. In this situation, we retained the competitive edge by shifting from competitive individuals to competitive teams. We kept their root competition and simply refocused it toward a collaborate value. This kept the intensity of their work, but brought it together with focus.

Specifying the Value System

Another approach is to define specifically what the value system means. Every value system is a collection of values and to lump them all together in one bucket can be risky and problematic. Creative values span the spectrum of autonomy and freedom, experimentation, keeping options open, taking risks, striving for a transformative change, open to ideas, visionary and forward thinking, reducing policies, and more. Thus, an organization focusing on creative values may emphasize forward new thinking over complete autonomy and freedom (or visa-versa).

At a financial company based in Denver, Colorado, while the desire was to shift toward collaboration, leaders were fearful creating a feel-good family culture would reduce their competitive edge in the marketplace. Thus, they specifically highlighted a few specific values that collaboration meant to them as an organization: intense teamwork and fast decision making, mutual respect and trust, and high commitment to our growth vision. It didn’t mean a relaxed family culture where everyone has a voice in all decisions.

What would you do?

We hope these illustrations have helped in your understanding of improving togetherness, while avoiding the pitfall of too-much togetherness. We also know that these are not the only solutions out there. We’d love to hear from you and the experiments you have tried.

Interested in a culture & values survey for your organization?   View a Sample Report   or   Contact Us