In last week’s post Stuart wrote about the case for collaboration, by revealing the prevailing narrative that often frustrates attempts to collaborate authentically and effectively. I want to explore how investing in a systematic approach can shift that narrative, avoiding those pitfalls of business as usual. Because if you want different outcomes on your project you have to do things differently, not just tell yourselves that you are collaborating.

To run a new narrative requires us to develop and practice new behaviours, so I want to explore and share our experience of how those behaviours can be developed and sustained.

Organisations traditionally use one or a combination of methods to develop new ways of working and to change behaviour:

  • Mandate – believing that if it is right and you want it enough, it will happen – a bit like “tell, them, tell, them and tell them again”
  • Facilitate – use external resources to help us behave differently
  • Toolbox – buy in a new set of processes to guide a different way to work
  • Training – equip people through a series of sessions to learn and practice new ways
  • Coaching – supporting staff as they attempt new behaviours

While these often do deliver the expected results, in our experience changing the collaborative narrative requires more effort in shifting the thinking, combined with developing new ways of working. The two processes needed to be closely integrated and practiced over time for sustained outcomes, otherwise the new insights and learnings quickly atrophy and people returned to the old ‘business as usual’ behaviours.

For instance, a new tool or process for listening can be learned and used, but if the prevailing mindset is one of expertise and knowledge, the new tool is unlikely to change the narrative from telling to asking.

And while people may be encouraged and supported in the value of asking, unless they have some additional practical techniques for listening, they may rely on what they know, unconsciously compromising their intent to be open and listen more.

Also a lack of confidence in new ways of working can also compromise the new intention of working differently.

So it’s the systematic combination and interplay of new thinking, new processes and new practice that drive a powerful new narrative, and not any one of those on their own. So if you want better outcomes from working together better, the case for a new business as usual is clear.