Building Collaboration over Lunch

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Recently, in continuing work with one of our clients, I was invited to join in a collaborative lunch which was one of a number of ideas initiated by our client out of recent work we completed to map and understand this culture.

One of the significant findings was that interactions between people and departments, while pleasant, were very transactional and focused on the work at hand. Almost no time was devoted to exchange and building of ideas. The culture was one of co-operation with limited or no collaboration.

Realising that it is collaboration not just co-operation that produces breakthroughs, our client embarked on a program to increase collaboration – the collaborative lunch as just one of many ideas implemented.

With the ‘why’ and ‘what’ for the lunch clear, people were left to work out ‘how’ the lunch would unfold – date, time, location, format, set-up and clean-up.

People brought one dish of their choosing, the result was a veritable feast of family favourites, national dishes and first time attempts. So what can we learn from this collaborative effort?

  • With clear agreed outcomes people took ownership of how the event was to happen;
  • There was no defined structure, agreement about what needed to be done was achieved using the right mix of people – in the planning phase all ideas were valid;
  • People at every organisational level were committed to making the event a success – everyone had a vested interest.
  • Group outcomes were placed ahead of individual needs;
  • People committed the time to attend and stay at the lunch, not take food back to their desk and continue working;
  • Organisation levels and departmental structures disappeared; leaders sat side by side with team members exchanging views and ideas;
  • Diversity was embraced;
  • Sense of pride in the event’s success and what was achieved was clear.

This lunch reinforced what can be achieved from strengthening affiliation and collaboration when there is genuine engagement and commitment to a common outcome.

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