Collaboration Only Makes Things Better

Collaboration Only Makes Things Better

“When you need to innovate, you need collaboration.”  ~ Marissa Mayer

collaboration only makes things better

Westmoreland, Tennessee, is not where one would expect to find success. On average the unemployment rate of this Middle Tennessee town has trended above the national rate since 1990. Decades of mistrust between the Westmoreland haves and have-nots fostered division and a profound lack of cooperation. These splits created 30 churches and non-profit organizations in an area where less than 10,000 people lived. Each group had its own food pantry to try to meet the needs of the low-income residents of the area, and still many in Westmoreland went hungry.

All of that started to change ten years ago, when a collaborative effort was set up almost accidentally by an outsider. Minister Charlie Millson worked to find common ground among the disparate groups. Millson appealed to the one thing these different groups had in common—they all lacked funding. Within one week of moving to the area, Millson devised a plan and explained it by saying:

We knew that the small churches didn’t have the funding, manpower, or sometimes even the space to stock a pantry. Many of the churches didn’t even have telephones where those in need could reach the pantries.

Millson called a meeting of some of the town leaders and proposed that they pool their resources into a new organization, the Westmoreland Food Bank. He found an inexpensive place to rent in the downtown area and opened a food bank with regular hours and trained volunteers. Soon churches started sending volunteers and resources. Now almost every church in the area participates in the food bank, and it serves over 600 families each month. All of this was financed and staffed by locals in a town where collaboration was unknown until someone helped the people see the benefits of working together.

Consider this …

1. Identify the areas in your business or organization where there is uncoordinated activity (at best) to vast disagreement (at worst).

2. Prioritize those areas from the most critical to the least critical according to their impact on your collective success.

3. Develop a plan to address the most critical by pulling everyone together and building a plan that requires collaboration—one that everyone buys into.

 For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide.)

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