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Collaborating for Survival and Success: Organizational Coaching Strategies to Meet Unique Opportunities and Challenges

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Commitment-Based Collaboration

A third structure, identified as a commitment-based collaboration, is less common today, but may become more common in the future, as an increasing number of organizations come to recognize the inherent value of extensive cooperation and joint development. Many different arrangements have recently been explored to make this extensive sharing of resources, relationships, and values possible. Two such structures have received considerable attention in recent years: the hollow organization and the virtual organization, describe in much greater detail elsewhere.

In many respects both are extensions of the strategic alliance. They dramatically reshape the way organizations develop deliver their products and services. They both imply real-time interactive, highly adaptive responses to an ever-changing environment. These two models of collaboration represent a dramatic rejection of hierarchical organizations that are vertically integrated. Traditionally, most (if not all) of the elements that went into the finished products, from circuit boards to plugs, were developed and manufactured in-house. The aim was to provide cost-efficiency and quality assurance by controlling the development, manufacturing, and marketing process. In many respects the hollow corporation and the virtual corporation represent near opposites of this vertical-integrative process. In a hollow organization, many, if not all, components of a process are made outside the company. A virtual organization is a somewhat different concept. Essentially it is a network of companies that can quickly be brought together to seize fast-changing and often short-lived opportunities.

The Nature of Collaboration and the Role of Organizational Coaching

While collaborative ventures encompass a myriad of forms, they all follow similar patterns in how they come together, define their relationships, and manage transitions. Furthermore, they can all benefit from the services offered by organizational coaches.

Coaching as a Venue for Clarifying Shared Directions

Traditional, autonomous organizations are, by definition, company-focused. For-profit organizations are successful to the extent that they remain financially viable; nonprofit organizations are successful to the extent that they continue to be supported by the constituencies they serve. In many sectors of the business community, a company is considered successful primarily if it is able to crowd out its competition and command a larger share of its market. Collaborative ventures, on the other hand, are by definition not company-focused. They frequently involve several different organizations which may (in other settings) actually compete against one another in a specific market. Collaborative ventures are industry or market focused.

With the help of an organizational coach, a leader (as member of a collaborative venture) can begin to shift his primary concern from one of market share to one of improving the quality of the product or service both he and his partners provide, better serving their mutual customers, and finding ways in which they together can gain a greater share in their mutual market or broaden the scope of the market for which they sometimes compete. In other words, collaborative ventures concentrate on expanding the size of the pie rather than on competing (against collaborative partners) for the biggest piece of the existing pie. While this concept is easy to understand on the surface, leaders often balk at the notion of collaborating with “the enemy” and value the support of an organizational coach who can sustain this perspective when the leader loses it in the midst of his daily struggles to keep his business viable.

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