To get the collaboration off to a good start effective communication is essential. Always be open and honest: do not hide the negatives. Use workshops and meetings to inform and involve people in the change implementation. Select methods of communication appropriate to the audience. Combine written messages with verbal explanations. Encourage ideas and problem solving approaches. Restate goals and benefits. Manage expectations and be realistic in the messages delivered.
Change requires both leadership and committed and dedicated followers. Identify people able to help you drive the change implementation. Change agents must be: good communicators; willing to collaborate; looking for ways to improvement things; realistic; ideas people; thoughtful listeners. Analyse the changes you want to achieve; decide who should lead this action; draws up a list of the tasks required; discuss the plans with each person; get feedback and check commitment. Encourage relationship building and monitor organisational wellbeing.
Stakeholder support is essential for collaboration. “Walk the walk” and lead by example: demonstrate your own commitment to the change. Remind stakeholders that changes will have a beneficial impact for everyone. Use staff and team meetings to highlight successes. Work with a system of advice and consent as much as practical. The talking and listening has to reach right to the bottom of the organisation.
The culture of a collaboration is shaped by the culture of its partner organisations and their staff.
Ways to influence organisational culture1
Support people to take a continuous improvement approach to their responsibilities and set realistic, achievable goals. Reaching goals will reinforce the continuous improvement attitude.
Give verbal praise in public. Written acknowledgement of commitment and effort as well as success, helps keep people engaged and enthusiastic.
Make work as enjoyable as possible and celebrate success.
Build leadership and facilitation capacity and encourage people to take a strategic perspective and develop their skills.
In the Not For Profit Sector increasing wages is frequently not an option but look for other ways to reward people who make a major effort to proactively adapt to change.
Develop a sense of pride in the collaboration. Display the logo on partner premises. Build a strong sense of awareness of the benefits of the collaboration.
Ensure that the collaboration’s procedures/protocols and mission, vision and values statements enshrine respectful collaborative approaches in all documentation and activities.
Change the way you do things to demonstrate the shifts in organisational culture.
Whilst planning can help circumvent some resistance, you will still need to watch for and address this issue if it arises. There may be both passive and active resistance that must be taken seriously and addressed. Treat people carefully when their spirits and self esteem are low. Resistance is best dealt with by understanding, without buying into emotional argument. People need to be allowed to voice concerns, as these concerns may be valid. Warm and fuzzy encouragement will not offset genuine personal fears. Support people to look for solutions for their concerns. Remind everyone that change always means opportunity. Ensure that people believe their own role is significant to the collaboration.
Dealing with resistance2
Rational: lack of belief in the collaboration’s capacity for effectiveness, misconstruing the intent or the detail of the collaboration, belief that change is unnecessary and/or an expectation of negative consequences arising from the collaboration.
- Explain more clearly the purpose behind the collaboration.
- Clarify the details of the plan.
- Discuss what would happen if the collaboration did not occur.
- Involve everyone in the continuous improvement culture to support managing the change successfully.
- Work with everyone to ensure effective reorganization of or the development of new, systems and processes to support the collaboration.
Personal: worried about the future, afraid of losing their job, concerned about interference in job role from people who don’t understand the ‘real’ situation.
- Note that it is most likely service agreements will be renewed where service delivery demonstrates continuous improvement, and that government is encouraging collaborative approaches.
- Focus on areas that people will find positive and exciting – greater opportunity for peer support, increased opportunity to learn from others.
- Provide ample opportunity for people to have input into or at least review, policy, procedure, protocols and schedules of delegation being developed.
Emotional: apathy, shock distrust and or passive or active resistance.
- Restate the reasons for and benefits of the collaboration.
- Constantly communication about the collaboration and change process being undertaken. Be honest in all communication and answer all questions.
- Demonstrate by examples how the new way is expected to provide better outcomes.
- Show by commitment and example that the collaborative approach is here to stay, and is not just a passing fancy.