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Measuring the contribution of collaboration

by Carol Rozwell  |  March 12, 2009  |  3 Comments

As I traveled around the country recently talking with clients about collaboration and knowledge management (yes, KM has become a hot topic again), two issues came up over and over. The first is what behaviors really signify collaborative work (more about this later). The second is how to appropriately reward employees for their collaborative activities.

Here is the issue: upon examination, most rewards and recognition programs acknowledge individual efforts. Many organizations are stuck in “industrial era” compensation models for rewarding employee behavior. We still pay people for “what they know” and not for how they share. From time to time, a team may receive a ‘special’ reward. But in most cases, when push comes to shove and employees are rated according to their goal sheets (or MBOs or what ever your company calls them), it is the work they complete as individuals that counts the most.

I was pondering this condunrum with my colleague Ty Harmon, the Senior Council Director for Gartner’s Emerging Technology Best Practices Council, and we thought it would interesting to hear your thoughts on the matter. So how is your organization recognizing collaborative behavior?  Is what you are doing having an impact on people’s behavior?

Category: collaboration  

Tags: collaboration  knowledge-management  metrics  rewards  

Carol Rozwell
VP Distinguished Analyst
11 years at Gartner
21 years IT industry

Carol Rozwell is a vice president and distinguished analyst on Gartner's Digital Workplace team. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Measuring the contribution of collaboration

  1. Ty Harmon says:

    I would add that broadly rewarding collaborative behavior is not the prescribed approach. Rather, how are incentives tied to specific projects that support organizational goals or objectives. Just as a sales people receive incentives to close business early in the year or to promote a new product ; How are you targeting your incentives to have the greatest impact on the organization?

    Asking that question, raises a much more complex issue around our understanding of which business processes or outcomes are best enabled by collaboration capabilities.

  2. Your dual focus – collaboration and measures – is right on target. First, we have reached the law of diminishing returns on competitive positioning; and the new game in town is how best to develop ‘collaborative advantage’.

    Secondly, we have been tracking new performance indicators sprouting around the world. You can find some examples – We’ve developed the Triple Knowledge Lens (TKL) as one way of viewing the knowledge-based economy, knowledge-based society and knowledge-based infrastructure. From these, we can determine new capital drivers that promote high performance – many of which relate to increased collaboration, such a Network Capital, Diversity Capital, Cultural Capital, Social and Community Capital et al.

    How to incentivize and reward behaviors? We would suggest making the behavior you want to promote visible – showcasing stories, rewarding dialogue, providing prizes, interacting across boundaries. It’s no longer about storing and accessing knowledge as was prevalent n KM practice; it is more about ‘Knowledge Innovation’ to innovating (i.e., create, exchange and apply knowledge) to create more value for a company or a county.

    We’re witnessing an emerging new discipline of what we call Knowledge Economics and what the Chief Economist of BusinessWeek calls Innovation Economics…where innovation drives growth!

  3. These are timely questions. The way organisations create value is changing as more and more steps of the value chain seep out to partners and suppliers. This unavoidably has implications for management and remuneration.

    The old maxim that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” is central to the discussion. Good collaborators, information brokers and networkers have always generated a lot of value. But in most cases it was neither managed nor rewarded because it was invisible.

    This is why social network analysis and data-mining are so important. They give organisations a way to make soft value creation of this kind visible and measurable. For the first time managers can start harnessing these characteristics as a strategic resource and can also reward employees who contribute on these dimensions.

    In my work with Trampoline I’m already encountering business leaders who grasp this and are starting to use the ideas in practice. I think it’ll be a couple of years before this becomes mainstream but I think the change is inevitable. This is certainly an important area for Gartner to keep its eye on.

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