15 challenges when collaborating with another organization

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There are many ways in which collaboration between different organizations can help individual organizations overcome their shortcomings. From brand exposure to customer and client acquisition, collaboration can be mutually beneficial when everything runs smoothly.

The Business Journals

However, collaborations don’t always run smoothly. There are challenges leaders may encounter when attempting to collaborate with another organization. Below, 15 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss the most common of these challenges and share some tips on overcoming them.

1. Lacking good communication and flexibility.
Try your best to find a collaborator that aligns with your organization from a cultural perspective. With that, your working relationship will be more conducive to being better communicators. Without good communication and flexibility, you will have challenges and may not get the best results you want in the end. – Debra Young, Sheer Velocity, LLC

2. Lacking trust, mutual respect, creativity.
True collaboration requires trust, mutual respect, risk aversion and unbridled creativity. All parties need to be willing and able to go beyond confidentiality restrictions and generate effective solutions to today’s complex challenges. – Dave Goodman, Goodman Experiences, LLC

3. Having a zero-sum mentality.
A major challenge one encounters when collaborating is a zero-sum mentality, which is often ingrained in mental frameworks and typically plays a larger role in the early stages of any interaction. This zero-sum mentality leads to a degree of mistrust that needs to be overcome. – Sudhakar Puvvada, INDIGO MILL DESIGNS, Inc

4. Becoming transactional and commoditized.
Too often, collaborations become transactional and commoditized. To avoid this, intentionally build the relationship between the two organizations from the beginning to align purpose and values — not just services. The ongoing nurturing of that relationship ensures that the collaboration succeeds and thrives, which ultimately provides the greatest value to all. – Michele Markham, EAG Advertising & Marketing

5. Overlooking an organizational culture.
Organizational culture is a critical factor that is too often overlooked when individual organizations work with each other. For example, specific organizations may use an “open-door policy” approach to handling employee relations, while others may be strictly hierarchical. Effective leaders will ensure that they respect each organization’s culture when collaborating. – Anthony Otaigbe, The Otaigbe Group

6. Mismanaging internal staff expectations.
One often overlooked challenge is managing internal staff expectations. Is this the beginning of a merger or acquisition? Will there be a company reorganization? Leaders must ensure that internal communication is given as much attention as communicating with the new partner. – Kevin Lindsey, Minnesota Humanities Center

7. Recognizing that others do things differently.
One challenge is recognizing that not everyone has the same way of doing things as you do, and that it doesn’t make their way of doing things wrong or inferior to yours. To head off trouble down the line, it is important to pick partners to collaborate with that share your same work ethic and core values. – Donna Stockham, Stockham Law Group, P.A

8. Balancing and integrating culture and values.
When collaborating with another organization, a significant challenge that’s overlooked is true balance and integration of cultures and values. It can be a bad recipe for a successful collaboration if the organization doesn’t share the same harmony as the economic deal. Make sure to set expectations, ensuring both are transparent with their core values and leadership style before the collaboration is forged. – Rahul Patel, Patel Gaines

9. Losing capacities for the sake of collaboration.
We all know collaboration is essential to long-term success. However, not all collaborations are equal. Ensure you are aligning your capacities for the results you desire or need. Building, or rather losing, capacities for the sake of collaboration does not bolster your organization’s goals nor build the right relationship with partners. It’s okay to be unapologetic about staying within your lane and abilities. – Jansen Tidmore, Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation

10. Failing to understand one another’s process.
Lack of understanding of one another’s process is a challenge. When collaborating with another organization, putting on your “listening ears” is extremely important. Having an open dialogue and clear communication will help reduce drag, misunderstandings and wasted efforts. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

11. Lacking clear direction and communication.
Playing well with others is essential to business growth. Collaboration often can lead to profitable and meaningful partnerships. The most significant challenges come from a lack of clear direction or failure to communicate clearly and frequently. Choosing a partner from a similar culture and work environment who also shares the same values can be critical to successful collaboration. – Hinda Mitchell, Inspire PR Group

12. Failing to discuss success in goal-setting.
Discuss how each company views “success” when setting goals to ensure you have the same values. Then, you can line up what work ethic looks like on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis to make sure that each organization delivers on its agreed-upon goals. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

13. Viewing collaboration as competition.
Very often, organizations become siloed and mistakenly view collaboration as competition. It takes careful consideration and planning to highlight the benefits of working together. Understanding and articulating the impact that the two organizations together can make is key to a successful collaborative effort. – Bruce Weber, Weber Group

14. Creating a ‘too many cooks’ scenario.
When several leaders come together in a collaborative effort, it is easy for a “too many cooks” scenario to play out. For any collaboration to work, it is imperative that all stakeholders share and agree to a common projected outcome. Sounds simple, but I have seen so many instances where the focus was more on the how and the who rather than the what and the why. – Wendy Merrill, StrategyHorse Consulting Group

15. Lacking investment in the outcome.
When all parties are not equally invested in the outcome, there will be failures. Constant communication is key. Have definitive roles and checks and balances along the way. Don’t wait until things get ugly to speak up. – Jim Lane, Lane Technology Solutions

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