In a new report out of the IBM Center for the Business of Government, Rosemary O’Leary and Catherine Gerard, both professors at Syracuse University, report on the results of a study of 304 federal executives in the US government.
The survey found just about all federal executives (except one respondent) use collaboration as a strategy. This isn’t limited to collaboration to groups within their agencies, either — this consists of collaborating with businesses, academia, state and local governments, and even other national governments.
O’Leary and Gerard cite some exemplary examples:
“One federal executive began a collaboration with the Baltimore City Schools, local universities,
and NASA to increase the number of students entering engineering schools. Another engaged
tribes; federal, county, and state health officials; and school staff to set up vaccination clinics
in tribal territories. A third developed coordinated white-collar crime investigations involving
American, Brazilian, and European federal law enforcement officers.”
As part of the report, they gleaned a two sets of recommendations from participants on what makes for successful collaborations. Success tips include the following:
- Educate employees about the importance of the strategic use of individual attributes, interpersonal skills, and group process skills while collaborating.
- Incentivize and reward collaboration among individuals and organizations.
- Embed collaboration in performance evaluation and core competencies.
- Reshape management and leadership education to include intensive self-assessment and emotional
- Train managers at all levels, but particularly senior levels, in the collaborative skills of communication,
negotiation, facilitation, and interest-based problem-solving.
- Address challenges to data sharing and incompatible technologies that block inter- and intra-agency
- Address structural barriers to interagency work.
- Document and share how collaborations are working so that managers can learn from successful
and unsuccessful experiences.
- Understand that the foundation for success in collaboration is common purpose.
- Learn interest-based collaborative problem-solving, including collaborative, win-win bargaining, and a process of discussion and give-and-take among individuals who want to find a solution to a common problem.
- Don’t be afraid of conflict—expect it.
- Build in face-to-face time.
- Improvise — be open to new strategies or approaches.
- Ask thoughtful questions — communication is key to successful collaboration.
- Don’t give up, successful collaborations are based on a lot of persistence.
- Focus on performance — this is the common goal for all parties.
(Photo: Joe McKendrick.)