Themes commonly heard within companies attempting to inspire performance and efficiencies are ‘collaboration’, ‘coordination’ and ‘breaking down silos’. Shortfalls commonly exist within companies because these sound like simple tasks to achieve, but are truly difficult to actualise, especially without direct and authentic leader engagement.

These trendy terms are great slogans in executive correspondence or during meetings, but require substance to fulfill successful outcomes. Significant actions are essential to amplify these terms, with measurable objectives that extend beyond a simple statement of coordination or collaboration. But what companies really need for internal success and within the marketplace is to synchronise company operations. This requires a pragmatic leadership approach.

Several years ago, Admiral Eric Olsen, the former commander of US Special Operations Command, made a speech at a Business Executives for National Security luncheon in New York City. Admiral Olsen spoke about important elements for unified (military) operations which involved the different services – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines; allied nations; Federal agencies; local governments, etc. – and articulated there are significant differences between ‘coordination’ and ‘synchronisation’.

Admiral Olsen explained that ‘coordination’ does not confirm agreement – it is only a consultation. He explained a misconception: thinking that sending an email ratifies coordination and collaboration. This is a prevailing thought process in the corporate sector. Admiral Olsen further described that ‘synchronisation of operations’ is the essential element for successful outcomes, best defined as “the arrangement of actions in time, space, and purpose to produce maximum results at a decisive place and time”.

Jan-Mar 2014 Issue

Edward M. Levy