Friday, March 20, 2015

When Teamwork Goes Awry

When Teamwork Goes Awry

As a child, we are taught that teamwork allows us to achieve our goals faster and better than working alone. It is true, when two eight year olds get together to work on their math homework it usually gets done faster and better.  However when complex agencies try to collaborate to achieve goals, teamwork does not always produce efficiency and effectiveness.

 As the saying goes: one plus one does not always equal three.

Collaboration occurs between all sectors of society including non-profit, for-profit, and government agencies. It can appear to be an enticing and positive solution to collaborate with another agency to solve mutual goals. As we saw in the three cases presented last week, however, collaboration requires a good deal of planning and foresight in order to be effective. There were several common themes or issues in the cases presented in class that highlight the potential opportunities and challenges involved in collaborating across these sectors.

Before I explain, however, I would like to outline which sectors each case represents so that we are all on the same page.

-Non-profit-Government: La Alianza and Massachusetts Department of Social Services
-Non-profit-For-profit: Community Involvement and Timberland
-Non-profit-Non-profit: Seattle Art Museum and First Things First

Now that everyone is speaking the same language, I want to show how the issues presented in these cases provide an interesting backdrop to discuss the pros and cons of collaboration between sectors.


1. Funding:

            -Non-profit-Government: In this case, there was no specific policy in place in the event that demand for CPS services exceeded the supply of funding (Sharma, 1998).  An opportunity of creating a non-profit-government collaboration is increasing the scope of services that are provided to a community. Many times, however, the government creates social mandates that agencies are required to carry out, but provide little or no funding for these new provisions.  In this way, collaboration could increase the rules non-profits are required to follow without necessarily increasing the funding to meet these new regulations.

            -Non-profit-For-profit: When Timberland began to face financial hardships it scaled back it’s funding to City Year and the collaboration began to dwindle. For-profit and non-profit organizations face different bottom lines. For-profits are ultimately focused on profitability while non-profits are concerned about social justice missions (Herman, 2010). When for-profits are profitable, the collaboration can flourish, however when these companies face financial hardships the collaboration may bottom out.

            -Non-Profit-Non-Profit: In this collaboration, the Seattle Art Museum provided most of the funding while First Things First provided the manpower to get out the vote. Funding can be a cakewalk if one non-profit organization has the funds to support another financially in a collaboration. If two small non-profits decide to collaborate, however, there it may become more difficult to discern how to raise funds (Sharma, 1998)
Lack of Shared Vision

2. Lack of a Shared Vision

            -Non-profit-Government: Government agencies represent taxpayer interests while non-profit organizations represent the community’s needs.  Collaboration could increase the efficacy of services to both populations. In this case, however, a divide between preventative and punitive abuse services resulted in a merger that would not be sustainable (Sharma, 1998)

            -Non-profit-For-profit: In this case, mission drift occurred for both organizations because there was not a clear vision for the collaboration. Timberland failed to put the shared mission above it’s own agenda which ultimately hurt the alliance (Herman, 2010).

            -Non-profit-Non-profit: Both the art museum and First Things First had a clear mission and were successful in the passing of the referendum. It may be difficult, however, to integrate two passionate non-profits because the heart and soul of a non-profit is its mission statement (Herman, 2010).

Herman, R. (2010).  The Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management (3rd ed).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Sharma, J. & Missey, A. (1998). How I Learned to Stop Griping…And Love Collaboration. National Community Service Conference, New Orleans, LA.