“Companies need someone to play the role of matchmaker”

In Collaboration, Employee networking by Christian Fleckl

Collaboration is a key concept of the modern business world. Whether we’re talking about the development of new products, change projects or internal business processes, success is largely dependent on effective collaboration between employees. Management consultancy cinco.systems is committed to the guidance and development of people, organisations and collaborative relationships at an international level, and co-owner Michael Thiel has over 20 years’ experience in identifying and solving the challenges of medium-sized enterprises and groups. We asked him about collaboration within organisations for the Mystery Lunch blog – and discovered why, at times, he likens his role to that of a romantic matchmaker.

Interviewer: Mr. Thiel, why is the networking of employees so important for businesses?

Michael Thiel: In today’s globalised business world, speed is the overriding priority. Changes happen at a completely different pace than they did ten years ago. In order to be able to react and respond in an adequate fashion, it’s important for companies to be able to rely on the seamless cooperation of employees across hierarchical levels, departments, locations and countries. What’s more, the availability of information has never been more essential, for technology companies in particular. When colleagues are networked with one another, the exchange and bundling of knowledge functions much more effectively. This is a prerequisite for the development of innovative products, and enables huge cost savings, too.

Interviewer: In larger companies, interdepartmental cooperation is often only poorly established. What does cinco.systems do to improve this situation?

Michael Thiel: Our 12-strong team works according to a structured process to advise organisations on overcoming silo mentality and dealing with hierarchies in a more effective way. We support organisations in introducing agile structures and eliminating rigid, inflexible processes, which frequently act as a barrier to efficient project management and obstruct the development of solutions and new products.

Interviewer: What are the cornerstones of a company culture in which colleagues are able to collaborate efficiently and effectively?

Michael Thiel: When working with organisations, we use a structured process commencing with a network analysis. This analysis provides companies with a clear perspective on their internal and external cooperation management and reveals the areas in which networks are not functioning efficiently enough. At the same time, it shows which individuals are capable of acting as cross-linking forces within the organisation, since these people have a key role to play in the reorganisation of structures and the establishment of new networks. There are a number of creative, multidisciplinary methods that can be deployed over the course of these learning and consulting processes to support the development of individually tailored measures.

Interviewer: How might such a scenario look in practice?

Michael Thiel: If, over a number of decades, structures have arisen in a company in which – for example – the product development and marketing teams work together only in isolated cases, these structures may have long since ceased to be visible, though they are bound up with a large number of long-standing difficulties under the surface. Once management recognises these issues, changes are initiated. The situation is then analysed and evaluated, and potential structural solutions proposed.

Interviewer: But such changes must often be met with resistance…

Michael Thiel: Yes, of course – not everyone is enthusiastic when we suggest new forms of cooperation. What matters at this point is communicating intensively with all those involved. Sometimes, companies need someone to function as a matchmaker; to bring employees, managers and departments together. This is partially about laying out the advantages associated with cooperation and collaboration, and partially about explaining and clarifying the relevant processes.

Links (German-language)
View practice-oriented examples of successful cooperative partnerships in this German-language video on the subject of “Networked Leadership” https://goo.gl/sG9eQl

The German-language course page for “Cooperation Management in the Context of Digitalisation and Innovation” at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland(FNHW) offers further information on the subject  https://www.fhnw.ch/de/weiterbildung/wirtschaft/cas-kooperationsmanagement

Interviewer: Aside from change projects, what can organisations do to promote internal cooperation?

Michael Thiel: One option is to organise open internal networking meetings – if managed professionally, these can be of direct benefit to both participants and the wider company. Informal opportunities for voluntary engagement can be an important building block for openness and the exchange of ideas. If employees from different departments are provided the opportunity to get to know each other over lunch, this can be the key to company success – particularly when such lunch meetings aren’t just a one-off occurrence, but are established as a regular fixture in the calendar, giving two previously unacquainted colleagues the chance to network and share ideas.