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Collaboration—critical, but attractive choices

Call it what you like but relationships where collaboration thrive is a one-plus-one equals-three proposition. Task by task, you can achieve shared goals that are more meaningful within your company, more valuable to your customers and more strategic within the supply chain. Companies that want to grow seek the competitive advantage gained from collaborative efforts. They see the disruptive complexity of advances in manufacturing technologies, material science, decision support software and the general pace of change. They know the process of collaboration requires them to identify and address actual customer need and desire. Of course, value creation is the whole reason to collaborate in the first place. Therefore, I think it’s a critical choice for your business.

Unexpected collaboration on the world stage

Imagine you had to figure out what the next luxury sport car must offer to the international auto market in 2 to 5 years. The stakes are super high and the technologies that define the product are changing faster than oil prices. In order to be successful you must deliver a relevant product at the right price point to a customer who’s fixed atop a short surfboard.

The solution will dictate that you choose your battles well. You will flex your stronger muscles where you can and collaborate on the ones not so strong.

You can bet Toyota and BMW have a certain customer in mind when they confirmed recently they have embarked on a collaborative effort to develop a common platform for “next-generation” sports cars. It appears to be intended for a re-birth of the Toyota Supra, based on this year’s FT-1 concept, and a replacement for the BMW-Z4.

While each manufacturer plans to discuss joint manufacturing and parts procurement (shared goals), Toyota and BMW both stand to gain individually from the partnership. Toyota will benefit from economies of scale and BMW’s luxury vehicle expertise. BMW will borrow some form of Toyota’s hybrid technology.

“… manufacturers have not yet met customers’ increasing appetite for game- changing innovation such as new, differentiating products or breakthrough technologies. Better collaboration across the value chain can help focus innovation spending to the right areas …” — AT Kearney1

Start by collaborating on your own stage

As you know well, the more moving parts you have, the more chance there is for problems, poor quality and inefficiencies. Hence, the complexity and confusion of a longer value-chain are driving the need for better collaboration and more ideas. Everybody’s looking for it but few have the right foundation in place.

Collaboration is about people and that makes it a social endeavor. So it might be advisable to start within your own company.

Caution: The very titles and job descriptions that defined separate functions within organizations for the last 100 years now aptly describe an organization of the past. Collaboration is a social activity founded on sharing, openness and transparency. It works best on a flatter playing field. So collaboration begins in organizational culture. It’s a bottoms-up approach. Enabling people to collaborate while providing them the space and structure to work together fosters a more productive and happier working culture. Then as you grow, your culture of successful collaboration can lower costs, enhance operational efficiencies and attract more people to your organization.

“Collaboration is a defining attribute of world-class sales organizations. They distinguish themselves from their competitors with their ability to quickly deploy and focus resources on a customer. They utilize common structures, frameworks, language and terminology when they strategize about the customer. They are able to leverage common messaging and value statements to align capabilities with the customer’s concept when they engage, and they rely on a shared knowledge base to bring insight to the customer’s needs.”

Is your culture suited for more collaboration? The only mistake you can make is to delay consideration.

The law of value

There’s one more caveat I need to mention. Collaboration is not necessarily easy and it’s not for everyone. I’d say if your business is not already customer-focused, you’re going to be starting out in the dark. Relying on mere perceptions of customer need and not really understanding actual need will likely become a deal breaker. There’s no value for the effort. So why would they waste the time?

Studies show a persistent gap, among many manufacturers, between the perception of customer reality and well, reality. Rest assured, failure to understand what customers want nearly always adversely affects ability to create competitive advantage. It’s the law of value. Successful customer-supplier collaboration depends upon understanding customer requirements in order to create value.

Closing thoughts

Did I mention that collaboration is scalable? A flat, unified, collaborative culture can lower costs, reduce waste and enhance productivity. How’s that for a formula for improving the net profit of your organization? Remember:

  1. Value creation is a great reason to consider collaboration, inside or out
  2. Collaboration is about enabling people to pursue shared goals and ideals
  3. Start within, create a collaborative culture, then go out and conquer

HIT Solutions believes the more your business keeps up with important trends, the more you will improve your product, and improve your bottom line. Leave me your comments below; share your thoughts.


1 AT Kearney—Since 1926, trusted strategic partners for CEO-agenda issues to the world’s leading organizations across all major industries and sectors


Miller Heiman—“The Currency of Collaboration”

Forbes.com—“Collaboration Rules: Five Reasons Why Collaboration Matters Now More Than Ever”