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Collaboration or what?

A little over two years ago, we as a World Team community launched a mobilization effort to increase the number of workers in cross cultural ministry by five to seven percent.  This is a laudable goal; an objective that requires we work together and respond corporately to this challenge.

One on-line author [http://blogs.hbr.org/ashkenas/2011/05/when-teams-only-think-they-col.html] describes three possible ways for teams to respond in such a situation.

One approach is compliance. This is where each individual independently responds to the challenge.   Now there is nothing wrong with this approach as it works to spread the burden across a large number of people.  However, working together is not a natural outcome of compliance.  In fact, people could comply without even talking with others.

A second approach is cooperation.  This is where individuals work on a response to the need, but share their ideas with others.  In spite of the sharing, though, the ultimate focus is still on individual efforts and not on a collective response.

A third approach is collaboration.  This is where the effort from the start is focused on the larger group rather than the individual.  How the group can discuss and work together towards a collective response becomes the objective.  There may be a sharing of resources across groups or areas in order to better respond to the challenge.

The on-line author (see link above) summarizes this way: “What’s interesting is that teams do not consciously decide not to collaborate.  Instead they do what comes naturally; which is to work either completely or partially on their own.  The reality is that true collaboration is difficult and time consuming.  It requires subordinating individual goals to collective achievement.”

To achieve our mobilization challenge, it is collaboration that we need.

 

 

4 Responses

  1. IT ALL DEPENDS…

    It all depends on the nature of the task or objective to be done or accomplished. (This is my opinion.) Some task or objectives are accomplished more efficiently and effectively by an individual effort others need only cooperation to be done well. others still are best done by the collaboration of a small group (team) and not the entire corporate body. Some tasks or objectives are achieved most effectively by corporate wide collaboration, but corporate-wide collaboration is seldom efficient and requires an appropriate structure and well designed systems to have any efficiency at all. Corporate structure and systems can also impact the effectiveness of corporate-wide collaboration. In delegating responsibility leadership needs to ask how is this task or objective most effectively done in light of the time frame, the nature of the what needs to be achieved, the abilities of people available, etc. by an individual, or by cooperation and support of others, or by collaboration by a unit, or corporate-wide. The main problem with large scale collaboration is the efficient use of peoples time.

    Interdependency is a WT core value. Collaboration and teamwork are important tools in a leader’s tool box not values. The leader should choose the appropriate tool for each job. Nevertheless, even if a task is being done by an individual basis it should be done in alignment with our corporate value of interdependency, which includes always working in alignment with our corporate purpose, vision and core values in focus including interdependency. No matter what the task is every one needs to understand how their work contributes to the whole in the spirit of interdependency.

    • Certainly, how we choose to work depends on the nature of the task or objective. However, I would highlight two elements. One is that we stray far too often to individual effort when collaboration would allow us to be more fruitful in the work of ministry. And second, I think that teamwork or ‘community living’ is not simply a skill (though there are elements), but a corollary value to the main value of interdependence.

  2. Why collaborate? This is the crucial question for which there are a number of good reasons. But we have a contemporary missiological/theological example of an issue which arose through failure to collaborate. The dilemma over the translation of “Son of God” for Arabic speaking Muslims has been exacerbated by a lack of collegiality and collaboration. Western evangelical protestants have a tendency to do things alone; but when we are talking about Scripture and theology, we need to function as a hermeneuitical community–not doing whatever is right in our own eyes. On the ground contextualization can be carried out with good intentions but poor theology. Contextualization is a collaborative process.

    • Yes, an excellent question and a good up to date excellent of its importance in an issue that faces missions today.

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