Big Organisation Processes and Collaboration…

Like many people, I keep a list of subjects I want to blog about. For a long time – several months – I have had a item on the list which I hadn’t been able think into a post. I look at the list, ruminate on that particular topic, and skip it because I couldn’t think how to tackle it. It took a conversation with Maggie, James and Al at Tuttle on Friday to crystalise some of my thoughts. (It’s probably fair to say that there is still more thinking to be done – this is just a beginning…)

We were talking about collaboration (a frequent topic for Tuttle, it must be said: after all, we were at the Centre for Creative Collaboration!), and specifically collaboration in corporate environments. And more specifically still, why it is so hard for corporate organisations to collaborate.

A lot of the problem stems from the structures and processes that large organisations put in place to manage and control their business. In a hierarchy – as most large organisations seem to be – each person in the hierarchy needs to justify their position: this determines their reward. Where I have worked, a lot of this is worked out at the annual (or maybe even quarterly) review.

And annual reviews are always about individual contribution.

Even when “teamwork” is one of the competences being assessed (and there is a whole other post about competences lurking in my list, too…), what is measured in annual reviews is the individual contribution: “what have you done for the team or project…?”

Employees aren’t rewarded for teamwork or collaboration. They are rewarded for their individual contribution. They are rewarded for claiming their role in a project’s success – and let’s face it, they are rewarded for claiming others’ contributions, too.

Collaboration and teamwork need a different way of working and thinking; ways which aren’t usually rewarded within corporate structures. This may be why so many start-ups seem to be more collaborative than well-established organisations – without the rigid structures and processes and large numbers of people to get things done, they have to be. In small organisations, people have to be flexible and adaptable, take on different roles and collaborate if they want to achieve their (and the organisation’s) goals.

Maybe this is just a truism; but large org

Maybe this is just a truism; but large organisations just aren’t designed for collaboration.


4 thoughts on “Big Organisation Processes and Collaboration…

  1. Andrew Ducker

    Surely collaboration and teamwork are part of how you make your contribution?

    I’m obviously missing something here. Certainly, in my end of year review I’m allowed to say “And I educated other members of my team, and helped out two other teams with problems they had.”

    1. patrickhadfield Post author

      Yes, they are – but review and reward systems don’t cope with them.

      I think “collaboration” is a lot less structured than teamwork (where generally team members have specific roles to perform).

      When kicking around ideas and exploring situations, it is hard to say who did what when. My most rewarding work experiences have been in such amorphous situations.

  2. Doug Shaw

    Hi Patrick – you’ve touched on something here. Large organisations may not be designed for collaboration – the people in them may be though. I’m doing a piece of work with a company and I’m learning that their recognition scheme is one of the most divisive things they currently do. There’s no team option, and people are saying to me they’d like something that goes right across the board occasionally. We’ve made it to “X” and we all played our part – type stuff.

    You blog a lot about tuttle it sounds interesting I look forward to slightly less busy times when I can come along and learn. Cheers – Doug

    1. patrickhadfield Post author


      Presumably this is what organisations are trying to achieve when they set up “skunk works” and “sandpits” – places to promote that kind of innovation whilst maintain the big company structure.

      I write about Tuttle because conversations there make me think – and that gets turned into blog posts! It is pretty similar to the Learning Unplugged sessions, only without the overt discussions on learning…!


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