Even when we value collaboration, it is hard to act collaboratively in traditional, hierarchical organizations.
Working with others takes time, time we often simply don’t have. Collaboration requires conflict, and many of us can’t stand any more fighting in our teams. And inviting many others to the decision-making table inevitably results in listening to single-issue voters, folks who only care about their own agenda. For these reasons and more, taking individual action is often more efficient in the short-term, and so we think, more effective in the long-term.
Yet, we know that in complex situations, collaboration produces far better results than does individual action. Together, we can produce more at higher quality levels, make better decisions, develop creative solutions to thorny problems, and share the workload. And in the church, we know God designed us to work as a body – different parts with different gifts, integrated into a whole unit. For all these reasons, we want to actually work together.
In response, some folks – you might think I’m one of them – want to shift modern orgs from traditional hierarchy to full stakeholder participation and collaboration immediately. But, of course, that’s not going to work.
Hierarchy and order is divinely-embedded into all domains of life – biological systems, families, organizations, churches, government, etc. Beyond that, organizations are incredibly resilient, and they tend to squash too much change too quickly.
But, if you want to leverage the power of collaborative decision making, stakeholder participation, and shared leadership, you must learn how to inject collaborative approaches during key moments, even in the midst of authority-laden structures.
Stan Deetz, a leading organizational communication scholar has suggested we “tithe” to collaboration and considering community values. Here’s the principle: In the midst of classic, hierarchical organizational structures, pick key moments and issues that call for the involvement of key stakeholders and devote 10% of your time to working collaboratively.
For an organization stuck in traditional hierarchical systems, tithing to collaboration is one way to begin to reap the benefits of collaboration and loosen the strict, authoritative structures that sap the life out of staff while inhibiting your organization’s fullest potential.
If you’re already investing more than 10% in collaborative ventures, nice work. Think about how you can increase that by an additional 5 or 10%. Over time, you’ll reap the benefits of working together.
If you’re still operating in a strict authority-driven hierarchy, I urge you to tithe to collaboration. Pick a few key moments where you can invite others to participate with you in making decisions, solving problems, and providing direction and leadership.
To help you do just that, in the next couple months, I’m going to offer a series of articles that explain how you can utilize a collaborative approach (within a hierarchical system) on some of the most common tasks that leaders face, such as:
- Selecting a new staff member
- Developing leaders
- Developing a new program
- Establishing a meeting agenda
- Establishing and implementing a new policy
- Making a key decision
In each of these articles I’ll show you how to take advantage of quality interaction, spur constructive conflict, come to decisions without wasting a ton of time, and satisfy the demands for accountability within a traditional authoritative system. Stay tuned – the first article on selecting a staff member will debut next week.
What tasks/processes do you struggle to accomplish collaboratively? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to write an article addressing that challenge.
In the meantime, how can you tithe to collaboration in your organization?