Building successful relationships with Radical Collaboration

Collaboration is one of the most important success factors for project-related work, e.g. for teamwork, between companies in a supply chain, or for tackling major social challenges such as climate change. Collaboration means working jointly together. Radical collaboration is a fundamental way of acting jointly, favouring basic change.

Collaboration is based on the willingness, ability and initiative of the individual. This is where Professor Schutz’s FIRO theory comes into play, which I explained in my last blog. However, we often stand in our own way. For example, we miss the recognition by some of the other team members and withdraw from collaboration. Or we have a strong need to control others (because we need order in our lives), but they do not want to be dominated by me. Or I sense through certain signals that the others do not really like me or even exclude me from certain activities. This immediately affects my way of communication, if necessary, I withdraw myself from collaboration or work only with colleagues who are well-disposed towards me. So there are many reasons why collaboration is difficult or even fails completely.

Radical Collaboration is an approach for individuals, teams and organisations who want to create trusting collaborative environments and transform groups of people into motivated and empowered teams. James Tamm and Ronald Luyet outline five essential skills to overcome defensiveness and build successful relationships in the 2nd edition of their book “Radical Collaboration” (see source at the end of this article). Without these skills, a team is just a group of individuals who each follow their own agenda. Therefore, collaboration begins inside the individual, not the organization.

The five essential skills for successful collaborative relationships are: 1. Collaborative Intention, 2. Openness, 3. Self-Accountability, 4. Self-Awareness and Awareness of Others, and 5. Negotiating and Problem Solving. This is independent of nationality, culture, size or nature of the organisation. Radical Collaboration teaches methods to significantly improve collaborative skills of all individuals involved in a team or organization.

The environment or culture in which cooperation takes place can be divided into three different zones according to Tamm and Luyet. The red zone is a more adversarial, conflicted and hostile environment. The pink zone is a more conflict avoidant, passive aggressive environment. The green zone is a more collaborative and rather supportive environment. Organizations tend to be a unique combination of all three zones. However, the zones are characterized like shown in the below table.

Through the book or the website of Radical Collaboration individuals, teams as well as organizations will increase their ability to collaborate, e.g. by assessing their relationship profile and/or performing an organizational climate check.

What is the procedure to move from the red or pink zone to a greener zone? Several activities are necessary to achieve this. For example, the organisation should think about the purpose, values and vision in a series of workshops with the employees. This means that questions such as what is the organisation for, which values are important to us, how should these values be lived and what can managers do to promote them through their attitude and actions? What picture of the future do we have, what does this actually mean for all participants or areas and how do we get there together? Finally, it should be discussed how the culture, the structure, the processes and the communication in the organization can be shaped in order to make the vision become reality. Usually the implementation is then carried out within the framework of a transformation programme. This will be discussed further in one of my next blog posts.

Author: Reinhard Wagner, CEO of Tiba Managementberatung

Source: Tamm, James W.; Luyet, Ronald J. (2019): Radical collaboration. Five Essential Skills to Overcome Defensiveness and Build Successful Relationships. Second Edition. Harper Collins Publishers, New York

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