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Strategy in Professional Businesses
Strategy in Professional Businesses

Play Nice – Creating the Collaborative Firm


How do you get people in multiple disciplines, industries and offices to work for the good of the firm? A wide variety of approaches, ordered from high to low effectiveness are discussed.

Blog Discussions


00:30 —

As noted in my previous seminar on the ONE-FIRM FIRM, professional businesses can achieve distinctive competitive advantage by promoting firmwide collaboration.

However, these companies. divided into different departments or numerous local offices, face a constant dilemma. On the one hand, the company wishes to induce and reward individual initiative in each department or office. On the other hand, the company has a need for coordinated action, mutual support and shared responsibilities.

07:45 —

Im going to read off a list of the “network collaboration” tactics that large multisite professional companies consider in attempting to induce more cooperation in their networks. Based both on my direct observation of these tactics at work, and on the reasoning given above, I have arranged these tactics in order of what I judge to be their effectiveness.

The top-tier tactics
  1. Cross-staffing
  2. Rotation of staff
  3. Reorganize around people we want to collaborate more
  4. Information-sharing (Real-Time Knowledge Management)

    The second tier

  5. Centralize selected network decisions
  6. Firm-level funding of collaborative activities (“free” resources)
  7. System of cross-boundary “Client relationship officers”
  8. Appointment of Network-Wide Practice Coordinators
  9. Joint training

    The third-tier

  10. Rewards for collaboration in compensation system
  11. Joint committees
  12. Periodic Information sharing
  13. Data bases to facilitate access to expertise
  14. Transfer payments and other accounting devices
  15. Education/awareness on resources available

12:20 —

Next on my list is re-organization. Many companies have found that the most effective way to get individuals to cooperate is to put them in the same profit center.

17:19 —

As the discussion above has attempted to show, the problem of cooperation is not one of lack of knowledge of the opportunities and benefits of collaboration; rather, it is a managerial problem of creating the environment in which people know their counterparts in other groups so well that collaboration (the bet that a favor given will be returned) represents a fair wager.

19:24 —

This concludes CREATING THE COLLABORATIVE FIRM the 7th episode in my series, Strategy in Professional Businesses. This semnar was based on a chapter in my book MANAGING THE PROFESSIONAL SERVICE FIRM, details of which can be found on my website. Shownotes for this and other episodes in this series can be found at An ongoing discussion of these issues takes place on my blog, Passion, People and Principles.