“We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” ~Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin’s quote above at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, his response to John Hancock’s statement that the revolutionaries should be unanimous in their action, [1] is telling about how the prospect of success or failure hinges in the leader’s ability to bring an organization together through collaboration.

The problem for leaders is that teamwork and collaboration are not a natural inclination of people. The picture you see at the beginning of this post is just an example. This was a real picture of an advertisement posted outside a well-trafficked street. The message this is portraying is that in order for a person to be successful, he or she must withhold information. In other words, forget about sharing information. Don’t even think about making another one successful. If you do, that someone will take your candy and run with it!

Okay, I understand that there are many ways people play with the insecurities of the weak-minded, but imagine what happens in an organization where clusters of those thoughts exist. Everyone suffers, really. The members in the organization deal with a distrusting environment. (That can’t be good for anyone’s health.) Creativity is undermined. (That will kill any prospects of economic prosperity.) And lastly, and just to name a few, your good employees in time will leave for other opportunities. (That leaves the organization with little, if any, prospects for survivability.)

Leaders (titular and non-titular) have to fight this decease. Leaders must infuse collaboration in their organizations. Since this may not come naturally, leaders may have to force collaboration into the organization. This is the way to make the organization come alive! Here are some suggestions:

  1. Re-design the organization. In organizations where excessive functional silos exist, the probability for cross-organizational collaboration tends to be minimal. When looking at the organization, those things that are core expertise, needed to develop and deliver capabilities, should probably stay functional. Everything else should be shared. The key point here is that enough sharing should occur, and this must start with functions that are common across the organization. A simple re-design would have core functional expertise tied to several sharing nodes, where teams share and functional silos are connected through those sharing nodes, bringing the organization to operate as one entity, not several departments independent and self-sufficient with nothing in common.
  2. When the organization cannot be redesigned, re-design the work. Organizations must avoid operations that are functional silos. Silos negate productivity, multiply duplication of effort, and deny access to the talents of the workforce. Re-design the work, so the work-tasks use cross-functional expertise through cross-functional teams.
  3. Create an experience. Regardless if you employ option 1 or 2, or a combination of the two, the fact remains that work will be done by people, and those people should be organized in teams. Many organizations form teams. The teams get to work, do the job, come up with fantastic ideas, and no one gets to hear about them. Instead, leaders should develop the team’s work into an event, with calendars, staging their work, celebrating their accomplishments, making the work part of the organization’s history, and then clearly publishing their work. The use of social media, where team members also explain their work, is a powerful way for leaders to communicate that collaboration is a critical value in the organization.

“Experiences are, by design, memorable. If a company does not create a memory, then it has not offered a distinctive experience.” ~Pine & Gilmore [2]

  1. Leadership must exemplify collaboration. Plenty of scholarly research exist that talks about the effect of leader’s behaviors. In short, leaders institutionalize behavior in the organization. They act as role models. Whatever they do, and pay attention to, sends a message of what’s important in the organization. If we want collaboration, we as leaders better talk it and walk it.

Sparking collaboration is nothing easy. Throughout my career working with teams, observing organizations, leading teams, and advising leaders, I’ve always found this requires a lot of energy. But once collaboration happens, people thrive and organizations flourish. What I’ve offered here is not the magical pill for success, but it’s a good start.

Regardless, the best policy when everything seems obscure and one cannot find clear direction on where to start, the best is to do something, and to do it together.  We’re really entangled in a web of mutuality, so therefore, “we must indeed all hang together.” The consequences of ignoring collaboration for other options are sure to bring consequences not worth the risk. If collaboration is not a natural instinct, then it’s time for leaders of all sorts to work the miracle.

Always motivated, lugo

Copyright © 2016 Jose A. LugoSantiago – Craft Your Journey!


[1] Hurley, L. (2004),”Model compliance: Avoiding the hard-knocks life so the sun will come out tomorrow”, Journal of Investment Compliance, Vol. 5 Iss 3 pp. 42-45.

[2] Pine, J. B., & Gilmore, J. (2016),”Integrating experiences into your business model: five approaches”, Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 44 Iss 1 pp. 3-10.