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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.

Other collaborative archetypes outlined in the book are more rigid and, as Baghai notes, it's often the case in work environments (and other interactions with people, in fact) that the best model for working together as one will shift now and again depending on the task or situation. For instance, even within organizations that aren't heavily hierarchical or rigid, there are times when a supervisor just has to tell someone how something is going to be done a particular way and that's that. The book offers guidance on moving fluidly from one collaboration archetype to another, lists and examines characteristics of each, and provides questions to ask to determine the archetype an organization most fits with and how to tell if a particular archetype might not be a good fit.

Establishing what archetype is in play in an organization, remaining conscious of how people interact in that model and seeking ways to support its use can help to overcome the "false sense of commitment" that can stymie attempts to get people to work for the collective good, he says. "Say you need to lift this conference table," Baghai says, gesturing to the table in front of him. "There will be those who circle around it and get at lifting it. There will also be those who say, 'it's a great idea to raise the table, but it's not my job to lift the table,'" and those are the people whose commitment is false.

While Deloitte has moved forward to put the "As One" approach globally into place internally and with its clients, and opened the center to support those efforts, research into collaborative archetypes continues. Baghai and Quigley -- who were assisted with the book by Ainar Aijala, Sabri Challah and Gerhard Vorster -- believe that eight archetypes just scratches the surface. They're now at work to establish a taxonomy around collaboration, which has in many respects been left to management intuition rather than being clearly established with identifying characteristics and behaviors.

He likens the continuing process to one of discovering an animal, naming it and then identifying its genus and species as part of the taxonomy. He expects that as they explore a taxonomy structure around the archetypes, they'll find subcategories within each and undoubtedly other archetypes, each with its own genus and species.

"These forms of 'as one' behavior exist out there -- it's just that we've never rigorously put a taxonomy around them," he says. "We see 'As One' as the first listing of this."


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