Pontypool: 01495 762244 | Newport: 01633 262122 | Cardiff: 02921 154313

Thursday, July 26, 2012
Organisation wide collaboration is imperative for successful strategy execution in any business, and yet, professional service organisations on which the rest of the business community rely for legal, financial, and business advice, often encourage behaviours that undermine internal co operation.
The difficulty is that lawyers, accountants, and bankers, are not naturally collaborative. Professionals define themselves in terms of their technical expertise; they are “hard wired” to work independently and are motivated by individual achievement, whilst remuneration reward schemes offer little incentive to share, co operate, or collaborate. So, despite corporate rhetoric of team work, unwritten rules and accepted behaviours encourage “star players” and the reality of internal competition which is counterproductive, results in underperformance.
How can professional service organisations overcome this issue, and in doing so, improve their efficiency at delivering services for their clients?
 
To cultivate a collaborative culture, organisations must seek to recruit co- operative people and discourage highly competitive individuals. This will be counter intuitive for many professional service organisations, where autonomy and a highly competitive nature have traditionally been desirable qualities in candidates. Co- operation and the desire to work collaboratively with others to achieve a common aim must become a core competency, of equal importance to technical expertise, talent, drive and ambition. 
 
Few of us are wholly co operative or wholly competitive, and adjust our natural tendencies depending on the environment we are in, so it is essential for organisations to emphasise to employees the value of collaboration at an early stage, and to regularly reinforce this message by encouraging collaborative behaviour across the whole of the organisation.
 
Co operation can be promoted by mentoring, where senior team members, volunteer to support their less experienced colleagues, and are skilled at both listening and imparting guidance and knowledge, sending out a strong message that the development and active support of others is as valued as technical capability and fee earning capacity. However, co operation can be quickly undermined by performance management processes which only recognise and reward individual accomplishments. A system that rewards those who adopt a co operative approach, over and above individual achievements will reinforce a culture of collaboration, leading to improved performance.
 
Meanwhile, increasing pressure from clients to provide more efficient and cost effective solutions to their legal and financial problems has created challenges and new opportunities for the professions. Strategic alliances are emerging between natural competitors, who are working collaboratively to pursue joint purchasing arrangements and achieve cost efficiencies. More importantly, relationships between professional service organisations are strengthened such that collaboration is emerging as a means of delivering added value services to clients and creating a stronger business community.

Kimberley Williams
Managing Director
Williams Wroe Management Consultants

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