Trust is crucial to collaboration. Open body language and candid communication invite others to be vulnerable, which can help all parties learn from one another and improve.
Does that sound appealing?
We think so too.
KaiNexus discussed a number of strategies for driving collaboration in a webinar with Teresa Hay McMahon, Executive Director of the Iowa Lean Consortium (ILC), and Stephanie Hill, Corporate Continuous Improvement Manager at ILC member organization Kreg Tool.
The ILC is a connector rather than a provider, with roughly 120 member organizations across various industries and sectors. The nonprofit promotes the three following strategies to facilitate rapid, open relationship building:
- Networking – exchanging information with another person for business purposes (either short- or long-term)
- Benchmarking – holding another business up as a standard for comparison so you can improve your product or strategy
- Collaborating – working with another person or business toward a definite end goal
These strategies can be leveraged to enhance performance and drive continuous improvement. In this post, we are going to focus on collaboration across industries.
Bridging the Gaps in Your Performance
Collaboration is meant to be cyclical and ongoing. Often, at the core of collaboration is a joint effort to bridge a gap—that is, to move from your current performance to your target performance, and then to your next target performance once you meet that benchmark.
Start by articulating a problem or an opportunity. Then, incorporate collaboration into your solution. For instance, say you want to achieve a 75% workforce participation rate in continuous improvement projects, but you are only at 50%. You might consider connecting with someone whose workforce has really high engagement—not necessarily in continuous improvement, but in any area.
What some people fail to realize is that they can leverage their connections and collaborate with people in different departments and sectors. Hill, for instance—despite working in the manufacturing space—has collaborated with realtors, accountants, and other professionals representing a number of industries. “Never limit yourself to your own industry,” she says.
Leveraging Your Network
When you collaborate with others, it’s important to be open to what you might learn. Of equal importance is thinking about what you can offer your collaborator. Learn to articulate your strengths, and give back whenever possible. Remember that collaboration is a two-way street.
That said, it never hurts to make the first move. Here are some strategies you can use to connect with people in your network:
- Reach out to former colleagues
- Conduct a LinkedIn search using relevant keywords
- Talk to everyone you know, and start asking more thoughtful questions
- Invite someone to coffee who seems to be familiar with your topic
- Contact authors and presenters—these individuals want their audience to reach out to them
- Search for local and national groups focused on your topic—through word-of-mouth, or by attending local events, presentations, tours, and Lean Coffees
Hill stresses that while collecting business cards can be an effective way to kick-start collaboration, keeping these cards in your drawer won’t accomplish much. As you work to boost your collaboration across industries and organizations, keep in mind that nothing beats face-to-face interaction.
For more information, watch the full webinar here.