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The Art of Collaboration

Presented by: Randy Disharoon

How do distributors and manufacturers achieve mutual success? Is there a playbook that can be employed? The answer lies in the art of collaboration. The Business Dictionary online defines collaboration like this: “Cooperative engagement in which two or more parties work jointly toward a common goal.” There are three key phrases in that definition:

The healthy, collaborative relationship among teams within an organization or between manufacturer and distributor external to the organization hinges on these key components.

“Cooperative engagement,” by its very definition, requires a commitment on the part of both parties. That is to say that each party must be both willing and able to effect change in the status quo in order to progress forward together. If one party is willing, but not able or is able but not willing, then the effort will fail. To complicate the case, while there may be two individuals who are both willing and able, the effort most often requires a wider set of stakeholders to execute towards that common goal. At any point, resistance can stall the initiative. This is where the second key component of effective collaboration comes into play…

“Work jointly” brings to the table an ethic of putting forth the requisite effort in order to accomplish something. There is no substitute for devotion of time to a worthy cause. Talk won’t get it done. The two parties must roll up their sleeves and exercise their muscle. In our busy world, this required work is often short-changed and the consequential effect is immediate. Returning to the premise that while two individuals each representing their company may in fact be willing and able, they must also exert significant influence on the rest of their organizations in order to overcome inertia. This, of course, takes time and it takes persistence. The key to success here is to clearly define and drive home the mutual benefit that would result. Too many of us want to see change but we fail to articulate that change in motivational language. What is in it for them? This leads us to our third component of effective collaboration…

“Common goal” is one in which both parties individually see the benefit to them but also see the larger, more amplifying benefit. In sales and marketing, this is known as “Quadrant 4” business. Neither of the two parties has the business today and both parties can benefit from earning that business together. There are often many factors that determine the legitimacy of attaining that business. Therefore, a strategic plan is often developed in order to test the potential.

Once the goal is confirmed to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely), then the two parties can cooperatively engage and work jointly to accomplish it. The valuable resources – time and people – must be afforded in order to ensure a chance at success. This most often requires the commitment up and down each organization, including sharing of key data that will ensure accountability and mutual growth targets.

Once both organizations are committed to the art of collaboration, mutual benefits will come to both organizations. On top of that, an even greater benefit results – this process of effective collaboration has been proven and it now remains available for the next project.

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