Working Effectively Across Different Organizational Cultures
Conflict within collaboratives is often inevitable, due to different organizational values, cultures, levels of experience and degree of expertise among organizations. These differences make it difficult to work in harmony. Despite common concerns, organizations have their own “take” on the problem, and their own set of assumptions and preferred solutions. They may also have different expectations around decision making processes, information flow, time commitments, and how power, authority and responsibility is shared. Collaborating organizations don’t need to have the same culture in order to be successful, but they do need to understand and accommodate differences among them.
Questions that might be useful to ask before committing to the collaborative are:
- Do partners have similar mandates? Do they overlap? Is there duplication?
- Is there a conflict of interest among any of the participating organizations or with the aims of the collaborative? For example, is there likely to competition for funds?
- How are decisions to be made?
- How will the work load be shared?
- What constraints does each of the partners have in terms of costs, political concerns and approval processes?
- What are the expectations in terms of time commitment; both in terms of the amount of time required for effective participation and whether there needs to be strict adherence to time frames; e.g. meetings stopping and staring on time, critical deadlines for task completion.
- Is there an expectation that some work will be handled by volunteers? How are they to be recruited? Who is responsible for their training and supervision? Are participating organizations or individuals expected to perform some work on their own time?