Several times in the past the bigger industrial sectors have recognised an urgent need to improve their performance. It’s usually been in response to a crisis, and often their solution has been to embrace collaborative working. New initiatives are born – for example Project 13 in the infrastructure sector is about fixing “delivery models that fail” – and these initiatives have largely had a positive impact.
It takes organisations a bit of time to react because working collaboratively can sometimes be counter-intuitive – competitors and customers haven’t always had their suppliers’ interests high up on their agenda. And of course it’s not always that easy changing behaviours, changing cultures, building relationships across a whole sector.
But there are some green shoots; a wider adoption of ISO44001 and Project 13 as mentioned above, and some good work by the Institute For Collaborative Working in recognising good practice. Then only last year the Department of Health and Social Care published an independent report on how “Leadership for a collaborative and inclusive future” could help in their part of the public sector. There are others too.
Collaborative working isn’t the preserve of an exclusive club – it’s a way of deploying skills and behaviours that will benefit most organisations and most sectors. And whilst it’s not always easy and it’s not always straightforward, the benefits in programme certainty, cost reduction, greater innovation and generally happier people are well proven.
Working on the basis that prevention’s usually better than cure, maybe lots more organisations and lots more sectors should be looking at how working collaboratively can help them. Maybe more should be looking about how they can get ahead of the game, rather than waiting for the crisis. Planning for the future by learning the lessons of history.