How to emphasise collaboration at work in 4 steps

Cooperation, silos work

What could be the best illustration of silos, politics and lack of collaboration described (and solved!) by Patrick Lencioni and his book? The Marvel movie, Captain America – Civil War.

Seriously? Yes!

You will find all the ingredients of corporate behaviour. Despite having the best team you can ever dream of, the teams focus on their own agendas. If your team members have different objectives, egos, and lack of trust … It only leads to a lack of collaboration and internal fights.

Blame is not for failure, it is for failing to help or ask for help,

Jørgen Vig Knudstop

First, let’s look at the leadership style of the two main characters before analysing silos work and finally reviewing the solution to foster collaboration.

Leadership Style

Captain America – Democratic Style

Captain America appears as the alter ego of Steve Rogers after he became a super-soldier. Rogers was born in the ’20s and grew up in a poor neighbourhood in Brooklyn.

After everything he went through, Captain learned how to become a leader and became the heart and soul of the Avengers team. He can formulate a new battle strategy and change an existing one as the situation demands. He doesn’t see the big picture despite his willingness to do whatever it takes. Steve always tries to do the right thing. He does not want other people to get hurt. He doesn’t resort to blackmail or play with people’s feelings; instead, he inspires them and promotes collaboration.

Tony Stark – Autocratic Style

This character is challenging to understand or describe. He sees right through the people he talks to. He never loses patience, has a rare understanding of people, and can be the keeper of their secrets. Iron Man acts more than he thinks. He is subject to frequent mood swings. He is always ready to sacrifice himself for others in his twisted version. Tony Stark seems like a “progress, not perfection” character. Wasteful. Straightforward. Playboy. Billionaire. Philanthropist.

Iron Man firmly commits to his ideals. Tony Stark’s leadership approach is tougher than Captain America’s. He does not go through the same leadership development. He is using people to achieve his goals, and he is willing to resort to blackmail. In the movie, we see him invite a 16-year-old teenager, Spiderman, to participate in a deadly mission since he knows the boy’s talents would greatly help him.

Outcome: lack of collaboration

Two talented leaders with different management styles assemble teams not to solve a common problem but to fight each other. Both heroes defend their points of view; neither wants to concede. Just imagine what they could have accomplished if they had come up with a collaboration solution and worked as a team instead of confronting each other.

Silos work vs Cross-functional Collaboration

Silos, in a corporate context, describe a company’s departmental politics or territoriality. This kind of rivalry between the personnel kills all productivity; therefore, the work is never done on time. For an organisation, it is never a good thing.

Most importantly, the lack of collaboration and working in silos is enormous stress for everybody. People become frustrated and stressed because the management forces employees to fight a pointless and often unwinnable battle.

This is precisely what we saw in the movie about the confrontation between Captain America and Tony Stark. Two leaders direct their teams to fight each other while they start the “war” going unresolved. When the flames of war are extinguished, we see exhausted warriors whose struggles have been in vain. And despite their different leadership approaches, Captain America and Iron Man make the same mistake – war instead of teamwork and collaboration.

Not finance, not strategy, not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.

Patrick Lencioni

The solution for collaboration: Common Goal

In his 2002 book, Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors, Patrick Lencioni analyses the 5 leading teamwork problems and comes up with solutions to each of them. His main conclusion is that people naturally split into groups and start to fight, but a leader can bring them together around a common goal to collaborate at work.

The Lencioni model to remove silos at work consists of four components:

  •     A thematic goal (focused, specific)
  •     Defining objectives
  •     Standard operating objectives
  •     Metrics.

Step 1: A thematic goal

Management must intelligently construct a task, a single all-encompassing goal, which remains the key priority of the entire management team for a particular period. There can only be one such task in the organisation. Moreover, this objective is a short-term vision. For long-term vision, you should Start with the Why.

The specific objective is not a number, and it is not measurable. It is the entire assertion of the desired attainment. It needs a verb. You can call it a version of a training program because it connects people to create something.

The timeline is usually from 3 to 12 months, depending on the organisation and the type of business. The thematic Goal applies to all members of the management team. But some goals will indeed be directed at a particular area. Of course, they will largely fall under the responsibility of one executive. So all team members must assume responsibility for this task. They do everything they can to improve the organisation’s position, not just their department.

To foster collaboration, the key is to unite the entire management team and all others around one Goal. The team will have to accomplish it in a specific period.

Step 2: Defining objectives

They are called defining objectives. They are components or building blocks that serve to clarify precisely what is meant by a thematic goal. Once a thematic goal has been established, the leadership team must give it a practical context so team members know what needs to be done to achieve that Goal. The system must have the following characteristics:

  • Qualitative: Not quantitative, assigning numbers and dates to set goals only limits the participation of the leadership team members, who cannot see how they can directly affect the numeric Goal.
  • General: Even though the defining Goal targets a leader group with functional experience in this area, all leaders must take on real responsibility and accountability to achieve it.
  • Timeline: When a thematic goal is no longer valid, the defining objectives also change.

Step 3: Standard operating objectives

In addition to defining objectives, it is important to recognise other key goals the leadership group should focus on and monitor. These are current goals that do not change from period to period. They vary from one company to another, depending on the industry. Standard operating objectives often include income and costs, market share, customer satisfaction, productivity, etc.

Step 4: Metrics

Collaboration model
by Patrick Lencioni

Once the thematic, defining, and standard operating objectives have been set up, the management team can start discussing measurement.

But remember that metrics have little or no context without these other areas. Even the most motivated employees, including managers, will only be so motivated to collaborate and achieve results if they understand how they fit into the big picture.

Keep in mind that even metrics are not always quantifiable. Often these are the dates you will complete this or that activity.

Conclusion: Collaboration first

You can find many similarities between the method proposed by Patrick Lencioni with the goal-setting system OKR (Objectives and Key Results). The technique was invented in the 1970s by Andy Grove, then CEO of Intel. Also similar to the Logical Thinking process, part of the theory of constraint was elaborated by Eliyahu M. Goldratt.

Having the best individuals does not mean having a high-performance team. It guarantees you will achieve your Goal if they act as a team.

Developing soft skills, like communication, creativity and change management, will also be crucial for teamwork. If your team and you face collaboration issues at work, you may also be the victims of an unfortunately too common problem: Workplace Negativity. One simple rule and 5 steps will help you deal with this issue first and significantly make collaboration easier. Another handy tool, definitively not used enough: How to achieve a thrilling team meeting in 4 simple steps.

If any questions or comments, please reach out! David Gousset.

Don’t miss the next post!

We don’t spam!

Passionate about transmission of knowledge, its practical use, productivity and collaboration tools


Leave a Reply