Collaboration – Part 2

Authored by: Norma Krech, Business Performance Consultant with R Ledbetter & Associates, and Sterling Master Examiner


Although there are several definitions for the term collaboration, the common theme is “working together to achieve a common goal.” Let’s break this apart. First, working together. This may encompass individuals or teams within an organization, or a partnership established with external resources or organizations. Next, in order for collaboration to be successful a common purpose must be defined, articulated, and accepted by everyone involved – the common goal.

Collaboration in the Sterling Assessment Processes

The Sterling assessment processes are collaborative in nature; both internal to the assessment teams and with the organizations that have engaged in an assessment process. The common goal is defined and clearly understood – to enable the organization to achieve the next level in its performance excellence journey by providing the most valuable, and useful, feedback possible. This is accomplished by:

Establishing assessment teams that are:

•  Comprised of examiners from outside the organization

•  Screened for any possible conflict-of-interest

•  Trained each year on the Sterling Criteria for Performance Excellence and the assessment process

•  Led by highly experienced examination Team Leads

•  Provide professional and/or industry experience

•  View the organization, its practices and processes, with an open mind

•  Provide organizational feedback based on team consensus

•  Maintain confidentiality of the organization and all information obtained

Working in partnership with the organization:

•  Understand the organization, and what is most important to them, through thorough evaluation and dissemination of the Organizational Profile

•  Gain clarity of that understanding through Business Calls with organizational leadership

•  Apply the Sterling Criteria for Performance Excellence based upon the individuality of each organization – while maintaining a balance with the intent of the Criteria

•  Understand each business result, its importance and purpose to the organization, relevance of comparative data sources, and industry or business impacts to results

•  Gain clarity of each business result through Result Calls with organizational leadership

•  Conduct end-of-day Site Visit debrief sessions with organizational leadership

Working in partnership with the Florida Sterling Council

•  Ensure the common goal is agreed upon

•  Provide training and learning opportunities for the organization, its leadership and employees

•  Ensure adherence to the assessment process and criteria by the examination team

•  Provide feedback for improving the assessment process

The Florida Sterling Council offers an assessment process that takes collaboration to the next level – the Collaborative Assessment. This assessment approach teams the most experienced examiners with your leadership team. As with all of the assessment offerings, the organization receives a feedback report providing an Executive Overview, and key strengths and opportunities for improvement aligned to the six process categories of the Sterling Criteria for Performance Excellence. However, the entire assessment process is performed in coordination with the leadership team, and key opportunities for improvement are addressed with high-level action plans. This assessment leaves the organization with the leadership team owning the next steps and it is ready to take action.

Collaboration in the Sterling Criteria for Performance Excellence

The Sterling Criteria for Performance Excellence does not explicitly refer to, or require “collaboration”. It does, however, refer to how organizations continuously improve and innovate, manage knowledge, and ensure data and information availability – with its collaborators. Therefore, an organization must determine its collaborators and incorporate opportunities for collaboration into its processes and practices. Let’s take a look at the Sterling Criteria for Performance Excellence and a few examples of where opportunities for collaboration may take place in each of the six Process Categories.

Category 1 – Leadership

•  Senior leaders – often with employee representation – determine, communicate, and embed its vision and values into the organization, its suppliers and partners

•  Succession planning is only accomplished through a collaborative process between the leadership team, and the specific leader and the successor

•  Societal well-being and community support are determined and achieved through the understanding of expectations and collaboration with key communities

Category 2 – Strategy

•  An organization’s strategic objectives, goals, and action plans are often established through a collaborative process between senior leadership, organizational leadership, and key suppliers and partners

•  Incorporation of innovative strategies, measures, and/or actions often leverage ideas, methods, or knowledge sharing with external collaborators which may result in pivotal change

•  An organization’s key competencies may be determined or enhanced through collaboration initiatives providing additional competitive advantage to the organization

Category 3 – Customers

•  Several customer listening methods, such as customer focus groups, provide an opportunity to obtain actionable feedback on products, services, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, former or lost customers, and competitors’ customers in a collaborative setting

•  Mechanisms used to enable customers to seek information or obtain support should consider collaboration opportunities

Category 4 – Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management

•  Additional or innovative means to obtain comparative, voice-of-the-customer, and market data and information may be identified

•  Social media has quickly become a key method for collaborating with current and potential customers, suppliers and partners, societal and community stakeholders, and other key stakeholders

•  Sharing of best-practices with internal departments and teams as well as external partners and suppliers promotes collaboration, standardization, and improved business results

•  Organizational knowledge is often electronically stored and available to employees, partners, and suppliers; and should be considered a key method of organizational collaboration when determining design and availability of information

Category 5 – Workforce

•  Methods to recruit and retain workforce members may be enhanced through internal and external collaboration

•  Approaches to workforce management, capitalizing on an organization’s core competencies, and reinforcing areas of customer and business focus may enable performance to exceed current expectations

•  Collaboration, and its pervasiveness within an organization, is an attribute of organizational culture that can demonstrate where people effectively work across boundaries to improve processes, solve problems, produce spectacular results, and is a proven driver of employee engagement

Category 6 – Operations

•  As organizations view end-to-end processes, cross-functional teams are established to design products, services, and work processes to ensure requirements are met – or exceed expectations

•  Performance improvement systems such as Six Sigma and Lean incorporate methods of collaboration to ensure the voice of the customer is clearly articulated, subject matter experts are appropriately involved, improvement methods and tools are properly utilized, and innovative methods are incorporated in solution determination and selection

•  Controlling costs of operations and reducing incoming inspections provide collaboration opportunities with internal departments and external suppliers and partners

Collaboration at the Florida Sterling Conference

One of the primary objectives of the Florida Sterling Conference is to provide a myriad of opportunities for networking – and collaborating. In addition to the keynote speakers and workshops, networking opportunities provide time to personally learn and share with other conference attendees, build relationships inside and outside of your sector or industry, and identify potential long-term collaborators.