ership level and we would placate them on an
ad hoc basis. It wasn’t until we conducted a
full audit of internal communications that
we realized the issue of poor cross-functional interaction was frighteningly endemic.
In one particular email thread, we found
operations employees refusing to provide
information to an internal customer service
request, claiming they had “more important
priorities to handle.” The misalignment of
priorities between silos was, in our experience, the number one source of interoffice
hostility, and, yet, the first issue to resolve
when we tackled a total cultural transformation in establishing collaboration as a nonnegotiable business requirement.
To clarify, the term nonnegotiable is as
threatening as it sounds. Where collaboration is concerned, you ought to be willing
to let go of employees unwilling to work together – even in the case of your highest performers.
While we were still in the nascent stages of evaluating internal challenges to collaboration
without a clear exit strategy, the senior leadership team worked to define what successful collaboration might look like. We hoped
that determining our end-goal would give us
something to work towards. We settled on
the following: For Cooley, success would be
defined as exponential financial growth with
no change in headcount; in other words, a
significant company-wide productivity increase.
While financial growth was an exciting
goal to keep front of mind, a simpler yet
powerful morale-boosting way to think
about a company-wide drive towards in-
creased collaboration is do what is right. In
our technological age of digitization, opti-
mization, and automation, just treating oth-
ers as you would want to be treated is near-
revolutionary. Doing right is easy when you
are working through standard day-to-day
processing. Doing right is exponentially
more challenging when faced with inevita-
ble operational mistakes. Human error is an
opportunity for innovation – and should be
viewed as such. In the context of collabora-
tion, human error is an opportunity to adopt
a collaboration mindset where Cooley would
previously have enacted a theatrical perfor-
mance of the Blame Game.
In the spirit of corporate collaboration, we
conducted a company-wide review of employees. We held all personnel – regardless of
level and division – to the highest standards,
insisting on a total commitment to the team
and to collaboration, without exception.
Placing the right people in the right positions while implementing a culture committed to collaboration demands that your leadership team needs to be the ultimate paragon
of collaboration to set the tone for everyone
else in your organization. While many would
agree with the idea of collaboration in principle, implementation, although not always
easy, is critical to a company’s success. Recruiting, training, and retaining the right
people with a commitment to collaboration
is a major shift for most organizations and
can take several years to fully implement.
At Cooley, implementation began with rebuilding the senior leadership team, a slow
but worthwhile process. Once the leadership team commits to a more collaborative
culture, it can begin the process of identifying which people, deeper within the organization, are not committed to collaboration
and to the team. Once identified, these individuals can either be retrained or replaced
-- again, without exception.
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and six years