The Collaborative Enterprise

The Collaborative Enterprise: Managing Speed and Complexity in Knowledge-Based Businesses

Charles Heckscher
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    The Collaborative Enterprise
    Book Description:

    How can businesses best tap diverse capabilities to generate new ideas, manufacture products, and properly execute strategy? In this groundbreaking, thoroughly researched book, organizational expert Charles Heckscher argues that, in a global network of creation and production, the dominant organizations will be those that master the still-uncodified skills of collaboration-replacing the giants of the past century who thrived on the mastery of bureaucratic systems.

    Though there has been much discussion of teamwork and alliances in recent decades, Heckscher argues that we are still a long way from fully understanding how to manage fluid and inconstant collaborations; and that this is an area dominated far more by rhetoric than reality. Using a combination of theory and extensive real-life case studies, Heckscher pushes the boundary of organization design and illustrates how companies are able to create new, effective patterns of interactions, and how they can build a culture and infrastructure necessary to support them. For organizational leaders in search of long-term competitive advantage,The Collaborative Enterpriseoffers sound research findings and invaluable insights.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18582-9
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    The frontier of human productive capacity today is the power of extended collaboration—the ability to work together beyond the scope of small groups. This is the latest of a series of historical expansions of human abilities through an increase in the scope and richness of interactions. When people learned in the eighteenth century to extend the range of markets, social progress leaped forward. When, about a century ago, companies mastered the techniques of bureaucratic organization, they made possible the creation of products on a scale and a level of efficiency hitherto undreamed of. Now the problem at the leading...

  5. Part I: The System
    • Chapter 1 From Bureaucracy to Collaborative Enterprise
      (pp. 25-53)

      Since collaborative systems dismantle certain aspects of bureaucratic structure—reducing rules, levels, and job boundaries—people may assume that they are simplylessstructured. When asked about control, systems managers frequently respond, like one of my interviewees at DuPont, “Well, you know, we just do the right thing.” The truth, however, is that collaborative enterprises need a great deal of structure to organize specialists around complex and fast-moving activities without descending into chaos—but it is a newkindof structure and discipline.

      All corporations, as well as other purposive organizations, must sustain two sets of relationships. The most familiar...

    • Chapter 2 Strategies and Structures: Varieties of Collaborative Enterprise
      (pp. 54-84)

      So far we have explored the fundamental divide between bureaucracy and collaborative enterprise. The main claim has been that business increasingly needs collaboration, mainly because of the growing importance of knowledge as a source of competitive value. We have also seen that the most important type of collaboration has moved beyond the level of small, decentralized teams to more complex, large-scale, and fluid sets of relationships that combine vertical and horizontal dimensions.

      This distinction, however, is only a starting point. General claims such as “Business should adopt collaborative systems” or its opposite, “Collaboration doesn’t work,” are too broad and vague...

    • Chapter 3 Citibank e-Solutions
      (pp. 85-107)

      At this point we break from the relatively abstract level and offer an extended example of how a collaborative unit actually operates. The following case is not meant as an ideal model: it had many difficulties and incomplete systems and faced continuing resistance from other parts of the organization. But it does illustrate in unusually rich detail the workings of extended collaboration.

      Citibank e-Solutions was a part of an e-Business unit formed in April 2000. The mandate for e-Business, a global organization based on the old Cash Management group, was to move aggressively toward the development of Internet-based products. e-Solutions...

    • Chapter 4 The Culture of Contribution
      (pp. 108-134)

      Structure, as described in Chapter 2, is relatively easy to change: top managers can establish new offices or even charter new teams and task forces by decree. But it is more difficult to make these structures work. Structures are animated by people, and the behavior of people is shaped by much more than formal directives, rules, and models. Managers can put in all the programs they want, but without understanding mindsets and expectations, they cannot improve the capability of the organization.

      This brings us toculture—a familiar but notoriously hazy and ambiguous concept that keeps getting in the way...

    • Chapter 5 Collaborative Infrastructure
      (pp. 135-169)

      While structure and culture are the most frequently discussed aspects of organization, both depend in turn on a set of background systems that help to create and sustain the organization’s capabilities. I call these the “social infrastructure.”

      On one side, infrastructure builds and supports culture. At the societal level culture is defined and enforced through mechanisms such as churches, educational systems, and membership tests. Organizations similarly try, consciously or unconsciously, to maintain the coherence of expectations through recruitment processes, training, and mentoring. The shift in expectations described in Chapter 4, from loyalty to contribution, is embedded in a wide array...

    • Chapter 6 Two Unresolved Problems
      (pp. 170-192)

      Despite very considerable advances in recent decades, few of the infrastructural innovations described so far are stable or routinized; the general condition of most companies is one of very active experimentation. But there are two areas in which, for different reasons, the difficulties are particularly significant and unresolved: accountability and careers.

      Of all the difficulties of collaboration, accountability may be the one that presents the most day-to-day vexations; everyone wants to know: What is expected of me? How will I be rewarded? How can I get those who I am responsible for to do what they’re supposed to? It is...

  6. Part II: The Transformation
    • Chapter 7 Crossing the Collaborative Frontier
      (pp. 195-210)

      The move toward “level 4” collaboration involves every aspect of enterprises. For those leading or planning such a change, the problem is that everything is interconnected; it’s hard to know where to start. As we have seen, structures do not work without the appropriate shared cultural expectations, or “mindsets,” among participants; mindset depends on consistent infrastructures; infrastructures cannot be changed without regard for the power of culture. Further, this is not a linear chain in which you can change one aspect first and another later. If you try to create a task team without the right infrastructure, it will generally...

    • Chapter 8 Journeys: Winding Paths to Collaboration
      (pp. 211-225)

      Although transformative change requires simultaneous shifts through-out an entire system, and although it often feels to participants like a sudden “leap,” the actual history is long and complicated. William James’s classic study of religious conversion found that the apparent abrupt illumination experienced by many people was in fact preceded by long, painful, often subterranean processes of exploration.¹ The move toward collaboration has often been like that: long periods of experimentation and gradual shifts in thinking, coming together at last in a new shared vision.

      The journey, moreover, has been full of failures—of efforts that have been greeted with fanfare...

    • Chapter 9 Leadership: The Interactive Approach to Change
      (pp. 226-245)

      The next question is: Are there lessons in all this history that can help leaders and agents of change to smooth the path to greater collaborative capability? All transformative change is intensely difficult the first time through, but the difficulties diminish when others repeat the process. Today high school students can learn theories of relativity and quantum mechanics that took the greatest minds in the world decades to produce; can collaborative transformation be “taught” in a similar way?

      Leadership of the change process—if it is going to do better than the uncertain lurches of the earliest explorers—must transform...

    • Chapter 10 Recapitulation
      (pp. 246-251)

      This is a recapitulation, and not yet a conclusion, because the final chapter will go beyond the empirical study to consider the place of collaborative enterprise in the larger array of social values. But it seems useful, after this long excursion, to look back over the main points.

      The central concept of extended collaboration is radically different from that of traditional communities and teams, which rely on closed, homogeneous, and stable relationships. Extended collaboration instead involves diversity of skills and perspectives, openness at the boundaries, and limited time frames. In general, it involves a strengthening of the “horizontal” or associational...

    • Chapter 11 But Is It Good?
      (pp. 252-276)

      In the final chapter, I consider the impact of extended collaboration not just on economic performance, but on other values as well. The transformation I have described is after all a controversial one, in large part because it seems to threaten values that are deeply held by many in the workforce and the wider society—including security, loyalty, caring, quality, and community.

      Social scientists still have a hard time in discussing values, more than a century after Weber tried to put the issue to rest by elaborating the distinction between values and social facts.¹ Most researchers would like to believe...

  7. Appendix: The Research Base
    (pp. 277-288)
    Charles Heckscher, Carlos Martin and Boniface Michael
  8. Notes
    (pp. 289-310)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 311-328)
  10. Index
    (pp. 329-345)