Coordination, cooperation or collaboration?


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The nuances between coordination, cooperation & collaboration is more than mere semantics for me. Mitch Lieberman presented at the Social CRM 2011 event in London yesterday about cooperation & collaboration across various business silos in an organization.

We at Cognizant are growing very fast. We officially entered the Fortune 500 this year, mere 17 years since inception and three years since our entry into Fortune 1000. Not resting on our laurels, we are setting ourselves higher goals. Cognizant 2015 is our five-year strategic plan to move from being a Tier One offshore services provider to being universally recognized as a Tier One global services provider.

Another important factor for us is the changing business landscape for our customers. For us to be able to service our clients better, we ourselves need to undergo certain changes too. At 100K+ employee strength, organizational changes are not easy. We relentlessly strive nonetheless, though not merely mulishly. 🙂

It is in this context of our customers’ reality and our own visions that we have ‘social collaboration’ as one of our key strategic themes in preparation for 2015. We are looking at various internal processes to be converted into collaborative ones so that we can scale better, faster without losing any of the nimbleness.

Lot of Cognizant’s processes currently require either cooperation or coordination, not collaboration. Collaboration by definition means that the common outcomes are being negotiated (social or stigmeric) by the constituents.

In a project the outcomes are already defined by the SoW/MSA/etc. Project Management is mostly coordination (within the team), depends a bit on cooperation (external groups for one-off requests, like getting a few hours of an SME to solve a problem or get expert opinion, etc.).

Having said that, the project team members almost always collaborate among themselves, especially those that have stronger relationship than being mere team mates, put together by the vagaries of global workforce management teams & resource availability. Hence you will find freshers (typically also college batch mates) helping out each other even if they are not in the same project/account/vertical; sometimes, even across organizations.

This “helping out each other” requires an environment of trust & sense of familiarity, because the act of helping inherently relies on reciprocity. When one helps their ‘friend’ they know they will receive the ‘help’ at a later time from the ‘friend’.

These kinds of collaboration are socially negotiated and these are things that we are very well aware of in our bones. With the phenomenal growth of Cognizant though, the current bother is about the collaboration at an organization level, and here we begin thinking about stigmergy.

Wikis are a perfect example of stigmergic collaboration. Open source development is another. People who are not familiar with each other are still collaborating on creating the documents. Hence providing an environment of trust is of paramount importance. Reciprocity is not the prime factor either, since usually the benefactor is unknown. It’s not quite altruism either. It’s all about the egos. And in enters Gamification. But that’s much later, after the community has been established (and am not talking about the software platform, but the sense of community amongst the people) and we need to get more people to contribute rather than been mute spectators or mere consumers.

This is where I hope my Framework for a Collaborative Enterprise helps.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Prem Kumar Aparanji
SCRM Evangelist @ Cognizant. Additional knowledge in BPM, QA, Innovations, Solutions, Offshoring from previous roles as developer, tester, consultant, manager. Interested in FLOSS, Social Media, Social Networks & Rice Writing. Love SF&F books. Blessed with a loving wife & a curious kid. :)


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