Building Collaboration Culture

Chemical Engineer, Administrative Assistant, Project Manager, .Net Developer, Sales Manager, Systems Analyst, Marketing Manager. What do all these roles have in common? They are jobs that we are filling on a daily basis. Up until 2012 the cornerstone to IMG’s success had been the company’s entrepreneurial approach to developing and servicing clients. A fairly ‘hands off’ model, it had proven successful but resulted in individual business units taking an “eat what you kill” approach and doing their best to fill job requirements whether it was an area of specialization or not. However in 2012 after completing a major brand refresh the challenge for IMG was to step into a new era and learn to work effectively across all five Ian Martin brands to achieve the company’s aggressive growth targets.

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We recognized a need to create an environment that promoted the sharing of information, ideas and sales leads while leveraging existing client relationships to expand our business and share of market. Using the framework described in Patrick Lencioni’s book ‘the Advantage – Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business” we established a thematic goal of “Collaboration” for fiscal 2013 and set off on a journey to transform the company. To measure our progress we established a goal of 50 collaborative placements by year end.

To kick start our collaborative efforts we held team building sessions encompassing the different brands and initiated regular business meetings with sales staff to promote lead generation, information sharing and joint sales calls.  One of the early challenges encountered was defining what a collaborative job order and subsequent placement looked like. We didn’t simply want to be moving existing business and relationships from one brand to the other if it wasn’t going to promote sales growth within the company. After many healthy discussions a framework was established and a brand neutral “Game Master” appointed to provide guidance where necessary.

Six months into the fiscal year and there was a general feeling in the organization that collaboration wasn’t taking hold. This couldn’t have been further from the truth! In fact collaborative activities were a regular occurrence with our sales team and there were many leads percolating under the surface that most people weren’t aware of. We needed a vehicle to communicate the activities and success stories and we had to find a way to engage everybody in the company, especially those who weren’t in front line client facing roles.

The solution was twofold. To engage everyone across IMG we created a contest; when we achieved 50 collaborative placements we would have a company-wide event – a boat cruise. To communicate our progress we started using (an internal social goal tracking system), where we established our goal, broke it out into groups of 10 placements and then provided a weekly update highlighting all collaborative deals, the brands and people involved and gave an update of activity in the pipeline.

The results were immediate and overwhelmingly positive. Everyone was talking about collaborative activity, what was on the go, how many placements were left, were we going to make it? People were engaged! Our fiscal year ended July 31 and we were successful in achieving in excess of 50 collaborative placements. More importantly we have kick started a collaborative movement within the Ian Martin Group which continues to gain momentum and will surely play a significant role in our future success.