Some collaboration lessons by John Chambers (Cisco)

I already mentioned CISCO’s collaborative experience a long time ago. I’m taking advantage of a recent article to share a few things about the “Chambers method” for collaboration.

I’m tempted to say that there’s no miracle and that what the article says is only common sense. Anyway, it’s helps to identify the main lines of any successful change project :

• Start with the “human matter”. A leadership change is not something one can improvise. It needs explainations, people need to be reassured and to be able to imagine themselves in the future situation, to make the change theirs.

• Align systems and remuneration. I often say “tell me how you’re evaluated and I’ll be able to tell you how your work”. Trying to make people collaborate while they’re given bonuses to ignore or even fightt againts each other is useless. In other words, in many cases it will be hard to avoid thinking about evaluation models.

• Think about “articulation”. Chambers talks about structure change, but what I can see beyond that is the necessity not to eliminate the hierarchical structure but implement systems that will help hierarchy to articulate with more horizontal and adhoc work models.

• Frame and explain : explain the future and make it clear. Autonomy and flexibility don’t mean absence of rules. On the contrary, employees who are often mistrustful by nature (and sometimes for good reasons…) need that the rules of the game and the frontiers between what’s allowed and what’s forbidden are clearly set.That’s what will make them focus on their rethought work instead of continuously wondering about “how to work” and “how to implement change”.

• Use social media. I don’t know if it’s done in purpose but even if it’s an essential part of the approach, it comes in last position in the list. Maybe because it’s of no use if nothing is done about the above mentioned points.