Is collaboration really necessary?

If you’re a procurement professional, then you probably hear the word collaboration more than you’d like to. Collaboration has rightfully earned its place in the hall of fame of executive buzzwords. But as most practitioners know, the reality of collaboration is often unglamorous.

Is collaboration really necessary?

So why this gap between the ideal world and reality? One root cause is that very few people actually follow collaboration best practices. The side effects of ineffective collaboration are further magnified when different departments within an enterprise have to work together, which is often the case when procurement is involved.

The truth is that collaboration works if and only if the answer to all of the following questions is a resounding YES:

1. Is collaboration necessary?

Too often, committees get formed and the overhead of having to communicate to several (overextended) people often outweighs the benefit of their participation. Ask yourself whether you really need others’ help or input.

2. Does everyone know what they’re doing?

How many times have you been in a meeting where half the participants look disengaged or confused? Collaboration is an active process and everyone needs to be all in and know what they are responsible for delivering. And this needs to be true at every point throughout the project lifecycle.

3. Is the end goal clear to everyone?

Often, collaborative projects kick off with a grand vision, but weeks later, the harsh realities of having to deliver by a certain deadline often muddle that vision. This causes confusion (at best) and severe productivity loss and frustration (at worst). Ask yourself whether you know where you’re going. If you don’t, then the odds are that you’re not the only one.

4. Does everyone know what the action plan is?

This is especially critical to complex projects with multiple stakeholders from various departments (which covers most Procurement projects). This type of project requires constant reallocation of resources and more than a few last-minute changes to the grand plan. Has the entire team been made aware of these changes? And more importantly, does the entire team know what the plan of action even is?

5. Are we actually using the right tools?

Despite the recent rise of collaboration and social media tools, most procurement professionals rely on email and Microsoft Excel to manage an increasing number of highly complex projects. Whatever the tool, it must be easy enough to understand at first or second glance, and it must add value immediately. The benefits of leveraging social technologies to collaborate effectively are huge.

A recent McKinsey study titled The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies makes the case that social technologies can aid collaboration and improve the productivity of interaction workers by 20 to 25 per cent.

Bottom line – collaboration can be incredibly valuable and almost always results in a superior work product and better outcomes for all if practiced correctly. Next time you start a project, don’t forget to review the five questions above!

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