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Communication in Integrative Collaboration

By Jennifer Semon

Students from the Spring 2010 "Integrative Leadership: From Theory to Practice" course, taught by Professors Jay Kiedrowski and Paul Vaaler, will post their reflections on integrative leadership throughout the course of the semester on the Time to Lead blog.

We can do more together than we can do alone. But in order to have truly great accomplishments we must communicate and work together as a team.

Our Integrative Leadership class has been reading case studies that focus on local, regional and national collaborations. Some of these collaborations have been successful, others were unable to get off the ground. One of the major differences between the cases is the amount of communication at the start of the project.

Often the members of a collaboration or alliance are from a variety of organizations and backgrounds. They may be government officials, corporate executives or private citizens. Each member will have their own idea of what the problem to be solved is and what the desired outcome is. Each member will have a different reason for being there.

In order to have a successful collaboration it is crucial to have open communication. At the very beginning members should sit down and share their ideas about the project, including the goals of the group they represent. They should strive to agree on the purpose of the project, the goals and the desired outcomes.

By agreeing on these ideas upfront, the members of the group will serve a unified purpose and work together towards a common goal. Once they have established the goal, it will be easier to decide what direction to take to reach that goal and determine what help they might need to achieve it. Open communication, with a clear understanding of goals and other important definitions, will allow alliances and collaborations to operate more smoothly, as everyone has the same expectations.

We are only halfway through our class but the importance of communication became apparent almost immediately. As we continue with our case studies, I suspect effective and open communication will have been an integral part of each successful venture.

An understanding of what motivates the other members of the group and what they hope to achieve from the partnership will allow participants to work together more effectively and efficiently and may contribute to the overall success of the project.



1 response to “Communication in Integrative Collaboration”

  1. user-pic

    Nicely stated Jennifer. I might offer an additional observation that to get to your effective communications, semantics matter. It is likely what you suggest when you write about the importance of definitions. To bring your point alive, imagine the (real) scenario where local businesses and homeless shelters partner to find housing for 150 homeless people. On paper, a very clear goal for a commendable IL approach. But will business interests be truly served if 150 additional homeless people move into the now unoccupied places in front of retail? Will the shelter and nonprofits who work to eliminate homelessness feel the goal was a 'success' if they are back on the street in months, with no new life skills? So even if the goal was shared, and clear, differences in measurement of that success may keep the final determination of the goal from being effective. The issue you raise is right on, and even more challenging the deeper you delve below the surface.

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