Director, Organizational Strategy, Primary Care Coalition
col·lab·o·ra·tion, noun, the act of working together to complete a goal
Collaboration is how the Primary Care Coalition and its partners have achieved so many shared goals over the years in Montgomery County. It seems like a simple process, "You do what you do. I'll do what I do. We'll do amazing things together!"
But things are rarely that simple. Although collaboration is magic when everything goes smoothly, it often takes experience, practice, and a concerted effort to get it right. That includes an intentional long-term investment of time, resources, and considerable emotional energy to continuously involve partners in every aspect of vision, design, and operations.
I want to share three things we've learned here at the Primary Care Coalition that can tip the balance and derail even the most well-intentioned efforts. A little awareness can make a difference in finding the magic and ensuring collaborative success.
Politeness… but not too much. I may be pointing out the obvious, but establishing and maintaining trust with current and potential collaborators is essential, so avoid being too polite to discuss differences of opinion. Collaborative organizations must have a culture of transparency and reliability, where disagreements are openly discussed and resolved so that everyone can get on the same page.
Progress… but not too fast. Keeping the collaborative momentum moving may seem efficient, but it limits the time available for leaders to have meaningful conversations. And that can lead to people feeling left out and undervalued when their concerns are overlooked. Don't let anyone lose faith in the process because there's no time to address conflict. Be sure to address any issues along the way.
Perfectionism… but not too focused. To "set a clear vision," leaders might be tempted to roll out a proposal or solid solution before seeking broad input from partners and stakeholders. Don't risk alienating your collaborators by failing to seek their input first. Take the time to hear what they have to say before developing a proposal or coming up with a solid solution.
The Primary Care Coalition has nearly 30 years of experience providing quality health care to Montgomery County's most vulnerable residents. Thanks to our many successful partnerships with clinics, hospitals, healthcare providers, and other community groups, all of whom have brought the right amount of politeness, progress, and perfectionism to our collaborative efforts, we know that we can achieve so much more together than we can individually. That's the magic of collaboration!