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The Collaboration Leadership Hierarchy

Over twenty years of working in and observing collaborations of all stripes, scales, and subjects, I’ve come to the conclusion that we can make a pretty good estimate of the process required to scale collaboration and the independent cost of facilitating it.

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The system is the size of the system you want to impact. When I was helping implement Melbourne Water’s Healthy Waterways Strategy that system was the water and waterways management system in Melbourne (about $ 3 billion annually). When we were looking at coordinating zoos to implement a biodiversity strategy the system size was smaller. What’s the system you’re looking at? Do you have an idea of what dollar figure you’d put to it?

The Focus is what you need the people you’re working with to focus on. As you build a collaborative endeavor you need to level up progressively and direct people’s thoughts and attention to different things. You can’t skip a step! There are possibilities and pitfalls at each level and, like a pyramid, the peak (leverage) is only as solid as the foundation! Most collaborations fail at the first step (Generosity) because it’s hard to envision and work towards the good of the system as a whole when you are paid to represent the good of your organization and its interests first! This is especially challenging because, though there are benefits for all collaborators, these benefits are not evenly spread out and some will get more benefits than others do. I do a lot of work at this level!

The Cost is the price you must pay separately from the regular budgets and delivery items just to coordinate the system in a new way… this is an extra cost! Collaboration is not free. It costs time, energy, and money. It’s like R&D… you never know if there will be a positive return, but like any conversation about a speculative investment: you’ll never change anything if you don’t try.

System Change or System Efficiency. I’ve written before about the invisible ‘Line of Control’ that exists where we move from one to the other and the importance of a) choosing whether going above the line is really what you (or your managers) really want and b) whether you (or they) are willing to relinquish the level of control necessary to go there effectively.

So, this is the basic framing of the Collaborative Leadership Masterclass program we’ll be starting in mid-July (after the school holidays!). If you want more information about it, email Paula and she’ll forward you the program outline and brochure.

I’ve been suggesting people send more than one person from an organization (and the cost goes down quickly for groups to facilitate this) so there is a small group with the same distinctions to work with. If you’re interested in this, feel free to ask Paula to book a quick chat with me and we’ll see if it’s appropriate for your organization or team(s).



If this interests you, there may be a number of ways I can help:

This is the link to register to one of the two remaining dates for the Collaborative Leadership Masterclass:

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