What Goes Wrong With Collaborations?

In our previous article, we highlighted that the way organisations collaborate is not working. Collaborations rarely achieve what they set out to. But what goes wrong?

In reality there are all kinds of flaws with collaborations, but the way things can go awry will tend to fall into one of three categories:

1. The outcome is not what was hoped for

Most projects and initiatives in the workplace originate because there is an issue or problem to resolve, or an opportunity to exploit. The challenge will often sound simple – to cut costs, to boost recruitment or resolve a specific issue. But all too often, at the end of a lengthy and complex programme of work, the original objective is not achieved.

2. Underperformance

Another form of failure is where some progress is made, but not enough to justify the time and money invested in the process.

Imagine a manufacturer needs to boost its productivity to keep up with the competition. A lengthy collaboration concludes that the right solution is to embed new automated systems and equipment. The implementation is deemed a success, but instead of boosting productivity by 50%, it is found to have a net impact of around 10%. Would the leadership team view the collaboration as effective?

3. Inefficiency

A final collaborative flaw is where the original objective is achieved, but at too great a cost. Most collaborations set a goal of delivering a result in a certain timeframe, or within a certain budget. But all too often the project overruns or costs too much, ultimately making it inefficient.

What are the causes of failed collaboration?

Collaborations fail for many reasons, but the root cause is often one of the following:

1. Poor meetings

We have all experienced the frustration of poor meetings, where the discussions are circular, no notable progress is made and there is a lack of overall direction. Without an effective meeting structure, collaborations will almost always fail.

2. Misalignment

It is essential to ensure that people are aligned behind the purpose of the collaboration and the ultimate goal.

It is only natural that different participants will have their own agenda within the project itself, and indeed part of the collaboration process is to reach an agreement that works for everyone. But if there is misalignment over the very foundations of the collaboration, it will be enormously challenging to move forward.

3. Rework

If an element of the collaboration is flawed, there is often a need to backtrack. Perhaps an important stakeholder in the organisation has not been part of the discussion to date, or there is an issue with the fundamental data on which the project is based. Reworking is almost always avoidable with the right thinking and planning at the outset.

4. Avoidable delay

Far too many projects miss their deadlines due for completely avoidable reasons. Poor meeting scheduling is a common issue, as is a lack of general time management. Setting clear expectations around meeting attendance, deadlines and priorities can usually prevent avoidable delay and drive better progress.


The Science of Co-ordinated Action is a methodology that is proven to overcome these common issues. It is a way of establishing the right foundations for successful collaborations that achieve their objectives, on time and on budget. In our next article we’ll explore what this scientific approach means in practice.

Lesz Sikorski

  • People Strategist, coach and advisor with 30 years global MNC experience in leading change and organisation development
  • Certificated professional coach
  • Lived on 2 continents, worked on 6 and visited over 45 countries
  • Previous roles have included HR Director APAC, Group Head of Organisational Development, Project Director – Change & Development and Global Programme Manager, Operational Improvement