How to make a collaboration real? Cisco case

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“I’ve yet to meet a CEO who didn’t want his or her company to move faster,” wrote Ron Ricci, a Cisco executive.

Indeed, nowadays in this complex market will survive those companies that can adapt to business environment that is changing constantly. Doesn’t matter in which market you work, you have to always be dynamic, growing and learn a lot. Hence, collaboration sounds like the best approach to take and it’s something that we all know is good to do in principle. But it is definitely easier said than done. People say it is good to analyze examples and learn from them. Let’s take a look at a good one that was done by world famous company Cisco: its way to have a collaborative company culture that helps to work effectively and grow.

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This example showed three main obstacles that appear on the Cisco way to more collaborative business. First, the goals were unclear. Second, was the lack of a decision making process that involved employees. Lastly, top managers of the company were not sticking to the process of changes. According to two representatives Ron Ricci (a Vice President, Customer Experience Services at Cisco) and Carl Wiese (Senior Vice President until 2015 January) simply by bringing these elements into the culture, Cisco was able to move relatively quickly to save millions. Since the company started to use their collaborative process they reduced the number of contractors from 5,000 to less than 1,000. The collaborative process helped to establish a more transparent, cross-functional process, so employees can reduce duplicative work by contractors by checking the scope of current projects already under contract.

Mr. Ricci emphasizes the importance of the clarification to the employees why one or the other decision was made. “There’s a direct relationship between the agility and resilience of a team and the transparency of its decision-making process,” affirms Ricci and Weise. “When you’re open and transparent about the answers to three questions — who made the decision, who is accountable for the outcomes of the decision, and is that accountability real — people in organizations spend far less time questioning how or why a decision was made.” This approach reflects the values of managers in Cisco company, as they want to give the opportunity for all employees to succeed, in meaningful work, where the rules are fair and visible to all.

From the experience and from all those ups and downs that Cisco encountered on its path to become a more collaborative business, the company shares few suggestions on how to make changes easer.

• Establish a clear vocabulary for the company culture
Looking at the Cisco example, this company has 29 key performance indicators to which employees can refer to keep a conversation on track and a team focused.

• Create a crystal clear and collaborative process for making changes
The agreed-upon decision making process in Cisco is to set the vision, then the strategy, then execute. This means that the leader is expected to explain why this strategy and this goal was chosen. What is more, he/she needs to describe the process that must be used to reach the conclusion.

• Prove your trust to employees’ judgment
Set up clear “decision making rights” at every level of the company. Try to engage all employees into decision making process. By doing this, the company boosts their employee’s involvement and let them feel more responsible for making the right decisions. What is more, it reduces the attitude that only one or few people came up with a certain rule. People feel that they all agreed on the rule instead. This enhances the acceptance of the new regulation and reduces the friction among employees.

What can we learn from this big-worldwide known company and its great ambitions to start a successful collaboration? There are two visible and important aspects that has to be taken into account. One is about making the goals clear and the other one stands for the value of respect all employees, getting them involved into the process of changing. If you want to read more about the importance of collaboration you can find some more information in the article How to Put Collaboration at the Centre of Your Business.

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