Collaboration vs Coordination

Value proceeds progress

collaboration vs. coordination

Have you ever found yourself in a team environment that goes no where? Nothing gets done. A committee perhaps. When I find myself in these situations I make it a point to talk about a truth that I have discovered. A saying I have adopted. A practice of habit and method of working with others I use. I have found that it clears these situations up quite nicely. People get it. People respond to it. In my experience it has breathed hope and life back into these gatherings which showed so much promise at setting out but somewhere along the way took a wrong turn. It is sometimes a hard pill to swallow for those that are not all that interested in doing any real work. Everyone who wants progress rallies around it and progress is what is had if it is adopted. Here it is. Value proceeds progress.

I was recently approached by The National Society of Leadership and Success to do an interview for content to push out to their members. During the interview I was asked what lessons I had learned about collaboration. I shared with them something I learned while in the Masters in Business Administration (MBA) program at Illinois State University. While there I had the privilege of studying under Dr. Steven Taylor. Dr. Taylor is brilliant, an academic’s academic. I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from him. Dr. Taylor was also an incredible teacher. That is, I learned new and highly valuable skills and adopted them as habits under his instruction. Dr. Taylor taught me many valuable things and one of the most valuable was the difference between collaboration and coordination.

  • Collaboration. In my estimation, the goal is getting all the information on the table.
  • Coordination. In my estimation, the goal is getting the work done. You do this. I’ll do that. Let’s go.

In my estimation getting to ‘let’s go’ is often the issue that committees struggle with. So I want to talk just a bit about getting to ‘let’s go’, which is where I have come to believe all the progress happens.

Value proceeds progress. Value propositions. The language of business. A deal. A proposed exchange. These are what are needed for progress. If there are no value propositions there will be no progress. Ideas will never reach their potential until a value proposition for executing them is made. Let me present a, hopefully, simple and adaptable example in an effort to make things clear and useful.

An idea that a certain set of stakeholders would benefit from a certain thing. Let us say a community wants a park. Ok so people are gathered to talk about the park. Quickly, often too quickly in my experience, the conversation turns to preference. Should it go here or there or have this or that. Preference is a wonderful thing in the free market do no misunderstand me. What I am saying is that a group of people talking about their preferences in a room will go on and on and there will be no progress on the park. Someone in the group must do the work to frame up a plan and present it. Make a value proposition to the group. This is how to speak business. Bill stands up and says “I should like to propose the following plan: I will research and identify grants, Susie will then write the executive summary for our grant application, which Sam will then use to get letters of intent to match dollars at a 1:4 ratio from these or those organizations and Mary will put the application together and come back to the lot of us to answer the grantor’s questions until it is through.” Then Bill says the magic words, “who is in?”. And what results is progress. If the group is in. They act in coordination. If the group is not in, they will have identified one way not to create a light bulb as it were. At this step, no matter if Bill’s proposition is the best, hopefully the group will realize the sacred nature of the proposition that Bill has made. The sacred language of business. Proposal. Acceptance, denial or counter offer. Now the group has a place from which to start. A spark in coming to a proposition that a team can commit to, hold eachother accountable to, and focus on the results thereof.

This has gone on too long. Here is a sound byte from the interview that was shared with the members of The National Society of Leadership and Success. I have permission to share a short snippet of it, for the full interview one need be a member.


 -A takeaway from an press interview

 As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.