Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground, and Reap Big Results. Morten Hansen. Harvard Business Review Press.

Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground, and Reap Big Results Book Cover Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground, and Reap Big Results
Morten Hansen
Harvard Business Review Press
April 14, 2009)

Most leaders believe that companywide collaboration is essential for successful strategy execution. Yet while some collaborative efforts achieve spectacular synergies, many actually backfire – wasting time, money, and resources. Why does this happen – and how can you avoid it?

In this frame-changing book, Morten T. Hansen argues that leaders sabotage themselves by promoting more collaboration in their organization. In their eagerness to get people to tear down silos and work in cross-unit teams, leaders often forget that the goal of collaboration is not collaboration itself, but results. Leaders need to think differently, focusing on what Hansen calls disciplined collaboration.

Collaboration distills more than a decade of field-tested research into a rigorous approach that helps manager separate good collaboration opportunities from bad ones. Drawing on rich examples from companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Procter & Gamble, Apple, and BP, the book outlines proven techniques managers can use to achieve cost savings, better innovation, and increase sales.

Deciding when to collaborate – and when not to – is the first critical step in disciplined collaboration. To master collaboration is to know when not to do it. The book highlights common collaboration traps that managers must avoid. Hansen also identifies four major barriers to successful collaboration – the “not-invented-here” syndrome, hoarding, search problems, and transfer issues – and shows leaders how to spot them.

Collaboration then outlines three strategy “levers” leaders can tailored to tear down these barriers:

  • Reduce motivational barriers and get buy-in toward a common goal
  • Encourage T-shaped management that rewards both independent results and cross-unit contributions
  • Create nimble, not bloated, networks across the organization that deliver results

Through compelling examples that span business, politics, and history, Hansen tells intriguing tales of bad and good collaborations. Discover how Sony lost to Apple’s iPod; how Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger changed from “terminator” to “collaborator”; and how barriers to collaboration added to U.S. intelligence agents’ failure to detect the 9/11 terrorist plot.

Written by the preeminent voice on how to get a collaboration right, this book will be the go-to manual for leaders in business, government, and nonprofits on how to unify people to achieve great results.

Morten T. Hansen is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and at INSEAD, France.