Fostering Cooperation LO21501

Scott Simmerman (
Wed, 5 May 1999 10:21:29 -0400

Replying to LO21478 --

Winfried Dressler in Fostering Cooperation LO21478 talked about trust and
the problem with collaboration. I think it is certainly one factor in a
collaborative situation. But there are also others.

Work situations tend to get too complicated for me, sometimes, because
they are so different. So, if I may, let me take a constant situation and
talk about some very common behaviors we see in regards to collaboration.
The context is our simulation.

Briefly, the Expedition Leader gives teams sufficient but not excessive
resources and explains that the overall goal is to maximize ROI and to
"mine as much gold as we can." Each team has access to information, an
understanding of the rules and practices, decision-making ability to
decide on strategies and tactics, and some time pressure under which to
perform and execute their plans.

What happens is that the time pressure (apparently) gets in the way of
teams discussing ideas with other teams. Should one team member, who is
assigned the role of Collaborator, actually get ideas and information from
another team, their status and role will often result in their other team
members discounting those ideas or information.

Teams form VERY quickly (there is a very minimal forming, storming,
norming and performing process because the situation will not allow for
it!). Thus, environmental factors like a clear goal, understood rules,
defined roles (on each team) and some other structural things show that
teams WILL get right down to business and execute an agreed-upon plan of

Related to the above, however, is a phenomenon I call, "My Team, My Team,
My Team." This is an EXCLUSIONARY focus of US versus THEM and is
competitive in nature. It is grounded in the "We Win and Then You Lose"
belief system.

It is my belief that, in Anglo North American cultures and some others, we
do not get more collaboration and cooperation because of residuals from
past experience. People are taught that there must be winners and losers
and that if you can "beat" the others, then you win. It is not sufficient
that ALL succeed as long as the individual succeeds. Trust is one
component of this but I think that the overall issue is larger.

(Interestingly, we observe many of the same behaviors with Asian and other
cultures too as they become Westernized in their business practices.)

WIIFM - What's in it for ME - most certainly appears to operate, although
a properly constructed team situation can shift the ME to US rather
quickly. Issues of peer support for risk and issues of "face" operate

But the inter-team aspects of performance seem to be focused on
competition. And it seems, from my personal work experience and 20+ years
in playing with organizations in various ways, that many seem to actively
promote competition between departments and organizations. Measurements
that "compare and contrast," for example, reinforce the perception that if
I do less well, I will not have status, face, or other things of

When I was with The Wherehouse, we had 1100 employees all of whom owned
stock (a 401k ESOP all invested in Wherehouse Stock) AND who all became
very aware of how their individual performance would impact the COMPANY
profitability. As we moved the stock from 3 to 7 and 8, people became
excited and we shared more ways to improve operations (increasing income,
decreasing inventory levels, decreasing shrinkage, etc.) As the stock
moved from 8 to 15 and we gave people information on earnings and
POTENTIAL earnings from the program, we reduced employee turnover and
increased skill levels.

Much of what we did was like the simulation I do not in regards to design.
We shared Best Practices between stores and focused more on overall
organizational ROI than on store results, even though we maintained our
measurement systems. We did more to highlight top performers than we
focused on poorly performing operations.

The synergies for collaboration are there, but it is my thinking that past
experiences (which tend to be competitive rather than collaborative in
many workplaces) will often interfere with cooperation. Measures
stressing individual performance tend to interfere with cooperation. Lack
of time and the obsessionary-nature of many workplaces tend to interfere
with cooperations. And a lack of understanding that the real objective of
an organization is to "mine as much gold as we can" is also a contributing


For the FUN of It!

Scott J. Simmerman, Ph.D. Performance Management Company - 800-659-1466 <>

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