Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Workplace Collaboration Needed Everywhere, Even China

Volume: August-mid 2010

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com


Last week Geely Holding Group, a privately-held Chinese auto company purchased Volvo from Ford. The tidy little $1.5 billion transaction provides Geely, a relative auto-newbie, with a global footprint and presents it with enormous collaboration challenges (more on that in a moment).


The Geely deal follows on the heels of the December 2009 sale of a portion of GM’s Saab unit to Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Company, and the 2009 sale of GM’s Hummer brand to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company. Apparently, the Chinese government has been, as USA Today (August 2nd edition) put it, “…encouraging Chinese companies to expand abroad, taking advantage of the global economic crisis to acquire assets at lower prices.” In other words, China is leveraging the staggering amount of cash they possess in order to diversify their investments and purchase relative bargains that have huge revenue or brand upside potential. Smart. Sounds like an investment strategy that some of you should ponder as well. Ah, but that is for another newsletter and another day.


Now, back to Geely and the collaboration challenges they will face with getting their 13-year old, entrepreneurial-oriented Chinese concern to work seamlessly with a well-established, Nordic-based, labor-union intensive company. This is a tall order by any means. So I thought I would provide a strategy on how a company like Geely, like yours, like any organization facing huge workplace collaboration issues can begin to address the situation.  


  1. Have a Process. The process I recommend in this case is called a working agreement. In a nutshell, it is a construct that seeks to flesh out the expectations that leaders and teams have of one another. It also works beautifully between individuals at any level of an organization who desire to collaborate more effectively. The potential results that working agreements deliver are the following:
    • The elimination of “us versus them” in the workplace
    • Productivity from a situation where a leader and a team were at odds
    • The resolution of a dispute between two quarreling leaders
    • Fast, effective rapport building between a new leader and their team
    • Increased coordination between peers in a matrix organization
    • Reduction in mistakes and misunderstandings that were caused by geographical separation

I believe that Geely will be searching for some or all of the above stated results. As such, they will need to embrace a process that points their combined team down a collaborative path.


  1. Communicate to Create Buy-In. Once a collaboration road map has been decided, it is leadership’s responsibility to create buy-in for the process. This is accomplished by:
    1. Effectively describing the process and its timeframe
    2. Explaining why the initiative matters to the organization
    3. Creating a picture of the desired outcomes of the process
    4. Telling team members why it matters for them professionally


This may sound easy, but this is where most leaders blow it. In effect, they under-communicate. When change and collaboration initiatives are taking place, it is impossible to communicate too much. Thus, once a collaboration process is put in place, a communication plan needs to be created that will bring the process to life. Communicate frequently and using a variety of methods (verbal, email, memos, videoconference, and teleconference). In other words, the frequency of your communication will not only provide clarity regarding the process, but also underscore the collaboration initiative’s importance.


  1. Follow Up. When we talk about workplace collaboration, what we are really discussing is people changing their behavior. Behaviors are interesting, and not easily changed. Unlike learning some rote skill which uses just one portion of the brain, behaviors are speckled throughout many areas of the brain. In other words, our behaviors are all over the place in our minds. That is why changing behaviors is so difficult – we have to connect a lot of dots, in a lot of places. It is essential that proper follow up takes place to ensure that desired, new behaviors take place. If they are not, intervention measures can be quickly implemented so that the change process is not undermined.  


  1. Measure Results. Increased collaboration can be difficult to measure in some organizations. If a direct measure such as increased production, heightened revenues, cost savings, or net profit is not available, consider using a survey or some subjective observation before, and then after the initiative. Catalog results, and learn from the journey.


The justification for all of your workplace collaboration efforts will be told in the results. And a workplace that collaborates well, delivers solidly. Bank on it! 

Doug Van Dyke is a leadership and collaboration consultant, executive coach, and strategic planner. He is also the author of Leadership Simplified – THE Field Guide for Savvy Leaders.  Doug’s audios and videos are also available at www.leadershipsimplified.com. To learn more about consulting services, coaching, and training, or to have Doug help your team work together better, contact him today at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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