A great blog post on Harvard Business Publishing’s site–-Six Fundamental Shifts in the Way We Work by John Hagel III and John Seeley Brown—summarizes some interesting trends from the authors’ recent book The Power of Pull.  (I confess that I haven’t read the book, but it’s on my list!)  Two of the trends in particular jumped out at me:

1. “The collaboration curve supplants the experience curve.”  It’s no longer possible to keep up with the competition through individual experience and expertise alone; things are moving too fast.  It’s only through collaboration that an organization’s ideas and implementation can keep pace, and that’s why network-centric efforts in technology are increasingly popular.

2. “Companies will not be able to fully harness the potential of collaboration curves until they resolve the Dilbert Paradox.”  We continue to say that talent acquisition is our top priority but we do nothing to keep and nurture that talent, instead creating the stultifying work environments parodied in the Dilbert comic strip.  We talk about talent development but approach it through training programs instead of redesigning the work environment.

The point I want to make is that designing training programs and redesigning the work environment need not be two separate efforts competing for resources; they can be the same thing.  Set up your training as a collaborative effort; not only collaborative in the sense that full work teams attend the session together, but also that the session represents a collaborative effort between the team and the facilitator in the service of a particular goal.  If the goal is to improve a management team’s coaching skills, then that session should focus not only on imparting theory, tools and best practices to the team, but also on giving them time to work out how those new tools and best practices can be instilled in the workplace by the team, within the culture of that workplace.  If the goal is to increase awareness of diversity on a project team, the facilitator might alternate the presentation of diversity awareness material with time for the team to collaborate on how they might work differently together in order to leverage their diversity.

Any “training session” that does not include time for participants to make collaborative plans for putting new structures and norms in place, in my opinion, misses the mark.  That’s why I advocate sending teams and work groups to training together, rather than holding open enrollment sessions that are attended by employees from all over the organization who don’t work directly with each other.  In the latter case, participants may pick up a new skill or two, or increase their awareness.  But without the subsequent reinforcement from teammates who have just learned the same skills or increased their own awareness, there will be no “stick”.

The Dilbert Paradox happens when people work in isolation, instead of together.  We can’t always change that, but we can certainly change the way training happens.

1 Comment

  1. PerformancePI

    Alright, make it work by building in leadership practices in collaboration… by making sure that teamwork in the classroom is about the same team activities that a group will be doing outside of class.

    That is, put your classroom teams to work addressing real problems like customer service turn-around-time (TAT), employee turn-over, quality control for the documentation that team produces (often a good choice for a classroom team because they have few pre-conceived notions about it and seldom realize that it is a problem).

    Put your money (in this case, your classroom time) where your mouth is.