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'As One': New book explores models for collaboration

Nancy Weil | Feb. 15, 2011
A couple of years ago, business consultant Mehrdad Baghai and James Quigley, the global CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, were chatting about Quigley's formidable challenge of getting all 170,000 of his company's employees "on the same page," working for the collective good of the organization.

FRAMINGHAM, 15 FEBRUARY 2011 - A couple of years ago, business consultant Mehrdad Baghai and James Quigley, the global CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, were chatting about Quigley's formidable challenge of getting all 170,000 of his company's employees "on the same page," working for the collective good of the organization.

"So we started with that question -- what does it take to get large numbers of people to work as one," Baghai says during an interview stop in Boston while on a recent book promotion tour. One of the things they found was that management books tended to lay out broad advice about how leadership should work to build collaboration. "Every leader does this -- one, two, three, four -- and everyone should build an internal market, everyone should do this in innovation."

They knew that the one-size-fits-all approach wasn't what they had in mind to help groups of people develop a shared organizational identity as they worked together. "It just seemed to us that you should think about collaboration as a general good," Baghai says.

Armed with the notion that collaboration "is a means to an end, not an end in itself, and that because the purposes might be different you might need different styles" of collaboration for different situations, they set forth to find out what had been written and what analyses already existed. What they came up with were some "notable efforts," particularly among academics, but "we wanted to find one that in a pragmatic way would help leaders act differently, so it has to be a framework" that would identify ways of collaborating, says Baghai, who lives in Sydney and also is managing director of Alchemy Growth Partners.

Because what they were searching for didn't exist in quite the way they envisioned it, they created a method to identify collaborative archetypes and the characteristics of each, which they detail in their new book, "As One: Individual Action, Collective Power," published by Penguin. Their approach also has been a springboard for the Deloitte Center for Collective Leadership, which is now open in London, as well as related apps for Apple's iPhone and iPad.

Their pragmatic approach started with reviewing hundreds of perspectives on collective action taken from a variety of academic disciplines, including science, economics and psychology. They also pulled together 60 detailed case studies to analyze successful collaborative efforts, asking a set of questions for more than 100 factors about those organizations, such as their structure, systems and processes, leadership, and how they communicate.

 

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