Three Key Ingredients for Achieving Horizontal Collaboration
The key to effective horizontal collaboration may only be found by first looking vertical. For years I have tried to see things differently, and focus less on the vertical reporting structures (that were all the rage in the private sector) because clients have simply been asking more about horizontal collaboration. But can you have strong horizontal collaboration without first having strong vertical alignment? The answer is no, particularly if you are driven to have more factual, evidence-based information.
1. Vertical Alignment
Vertical alignment is the state of having all levels in an organization focused on the same priorities. It is achieved through the ongoing review and validation of detailed information across Staff, Team Leads, Chief/Managers, and Directors. Once validated, this information is then ready for sharing with senior management and horizontal partners.
People are frustrated about their inability to get the facts rights (and the right facts), resulting in the cry from all leaders in government to deliver more factual, evidence-based information. A noble cry for sure, but how does one go about getting more of this type of information? The answer lies in dashboards.
2. Dashboard Reporting
At the centre of my new (and old at the same time) discovery lies the dashboard report. Lots of government departments are embracing the idea of a dashboard, and if created and implemented well, it serves as the impetus for strengthening your vertical alignment.
It can focus all individuals within a functional work team on the same priorities. This same exercise can be repeated in all functional work teams across an organization. When the buzz around certain priorities gets loud enough (goes viral), momentum can’t help but kick in. How does one go about creating buzz? The answer lies in communication frameworks.
3. Communication Framework
A well designed dashboard report is definitely important. It then must be anchored within a communication framework to ensure the right information is being reviewed by the right people at the right time (on an ongoing and consistent basis). Only then can it move mountains. This is not pie in the sky thinking, I’ve seen this happen many times in my thirteen years implementing them in the private sector.
The quest for meaningful horizontal collaboration lies in first achieving and implementing three things: vertical alignment, dashboard reporting, and communication frameworks. This is the straightest path available for gathering the factual, evidence-based information required for sharing effective information with senior management and horizontal partners.
The news is good here. The path is straight. The path is well trodden. For those who choose the path, success is right around the corner.
Footnotes on Communication Frameworks:
How do they work?
Just think of the letter V – it starts at the top, dips down to the bottom, and then comes back up. A Communication Framework works through the chain of command in the same V shape. Strategic priorities are defined by Senior Management and they are then translated down through the chain of command. And in return, operational performance results based on those priorities are reported back up again. Everyone along the way is providing the right people the right information at the right time.
Why is it called a Communication Framework?
The process of leveraging the chain of command (described above) serves to validate information. Armed with the right facts, people will communicate more effectively and more timely information. Over time, people will develop better communication habits enabling them to more consistently meet their organization’s communication needs.
Kathy Roy has implemented business transformation and change management projects in complex organizations for over two decades. She has worked with major companies, both public and private, and with numerous business sectors in both Canada and the United States. She is part of Systemscope's Strategic Business Consulting practice.