Small to medium size enterprises are beginning to collaborate more and more. Such collaborative enterprises are beginning to challenge some of the bigger commercial organisations as co-operative ventures NISA, Mole Valley Farmers, The Co-Op are all examples of successful mutual collaboration. Now with customers becoming more and more environmentally sensitive and more concerned with the local impact of the big five supermarkets there is a growing opportunity for local collaborative work to truly challenge organisations with a large environmental footprint.

So if SME’s wish to collaborate what are the key tenets of effective collaboration. After all  collaboration is simply working in a leaderless team!

Vision as ever is vital and it must be common. A shared and well communicated vision will hold a collaboration together and empower those within it to achieve.

Trust Collaborators must trust each other. If they don’t collaboration wont work. Trust is two way and trust is important when there is no leader to arbitrate.  Trust allows the collaboration to be honest and forthright in its  internal challenges without fear of dissolution. Trust  also breeds respect and respect ensures that listening to and comprehending each other’s point of view is  part of everyday life.

Communication is the essential life blood of collaboration and it has to be effective without  a leader to interpret messages. Communication in the early stages makes for stronger collaboration. That early communication is important in establishing members expectations and boundaries. For collaboration will crash without all those involved understanding each others expectations and boundaries. The most important part of communication is honesty in terms of being honest in what you will do and not what you may do! It is also vital to communicate any change in your intentions- for to announce that you haven’t done something on the day you promised to deliver it it breaks trust!

Clear Responsibility and Ownership boundaries are enhanced by clear delineation of responsibilities, they make for effective work and control and ensure accountability within an organisation. Ownership of issues and tasks has to be clearly understood by all those involved. And all those involved have to be prepared to accept responsibility and accountability.

Results Without outcomes which match or exceed expectations no collaboration can survive for long as members look to others to satisfy their ambitions.  A collaboration and the individuals must focus on results.

Well its easy really when you know how. Then why is it so difficult for SME’s to achieve successful long term collaborations? Follow these simple principles and suddenly many doors and avenues of opportunity are opened.

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