Magazine article Public Sector

Creating a Collaborative Culture

Magazine article Public Sector

Creating a Collaborative Culture

Article excerpt

We all understand that cross-sector collaboration is a key mechanism by which the public sector is expected to achieve the Better Public Services outcomes. It is easy to articulate this expectation but experience shows that delivery of collaborative processes is not a simple task.

In 2013, I was granted a Leadership Development Centre fellowship to investigate the key elements of successful collaborations. Interviews were conducted with over 100 leaders of collaborations in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States to distill the key factors that underpin successful collaboration. Subsequently these learnings have been tested both in practice and via seminars and coaching sessions with teams in a number of public sector organisations.

The interviewees consistently identified four key factors: clarity of purpose; planning and preparation; creating a collaborative culture; and the capability of the people involved.

Clarity of purpose

For collaborative projects to be successful, all partners need to understand why they are collaborating and be committed to achieving a shared goal. In the most successful collaborations the commitment has to be deeper than just the shared goal - the leaders of the organisation were committed to the collaboration, the incentives to work collaboratively were strong, and there was an equally strong commitment to helping each of the partners or individuals involved achieve their individual goals.

One reason cross-organisation collaborations fail is that one partner is not prepared to put the effort in to help make the other partners successful or is not prepared to share risks as well as benefits.

Planning and preparation

Successful collaborations do not spring perfectly formed from a meeting of senior leadership teams. They are developed over time and based on careful up-front planning and preparation and constant effort on the part of the teams involved.

The more time spent up-front determining the project measures, common reporting frameworks, team membership and governance structures, the more likely the collaboration will be successful. A key factor in successful planning and preparation is the explicit agreement about how risks and benefits will be shared. Some collaborations take this philosophy even further, including in the planning phase a plan for how the collaboration will end and making explicit how factors such as intellectual property will be managed after the project is completed. …

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