Two words that seemed to get interchanged in business are consensus and collaboration. These words are not the same. Definitions pulled from the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Consensus: a general agreement about something : an idea or opinion that is shared by all the people in a group
Collaboration: to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something
Consensus means getting everyone to agree. This is what happens when a jury goes to deliberate on a case. They must come to a consensus or it is a hung jury.
Collaboration is working together towards a common goal.
People can work together towards a common goal without agreeing on the method.
In today’s world, collaboration is a must for much of what people do. People must work together to understand a customer’s needs and then develop and manufacture that product. If consensus had to happen before any work was started, work would never get completed.
Have you ever worked on a team where someone tried to get consensus before moving on? It can be painstaking. Especially, when there are varying opinions. This is where a leader steps in and makes decisions that sometimes are very tough.
Good leaders know the difference between collaboration and consensus. They know when consensus is important and when it is not needed.
Do you interchange the two?
I am a big fan of Fox’s TV show HOUSE. As I was watching, I couldn’t help but think the medical team was participating in a kaizen event. The concept that struck me was watching the doctors collaborate in the diagnosis of a patient and how this is just like breaking down the functional silos in a business environment.
Reaching across functional silos and collaborating has become more prevalent in today’s manufacturing world. Manufacturing must collaborate with procurement and transportation in order to create a better total cost system that delivers value to the customer. It has not been easy and it has not been the norm in the past, but there is still an abundance of examples to point to showing the benefits.
Why don’t more doctors work in collaborative teams? The team on House all have different backgrounds and specialties. This gives them all different perspectives on the situation (like transportation, procurement, and manufacturing) with one common goal……..save the patient (deliver a quality product to the customer when they want it). At some point, if you put different doctors in one room and have them discuss the issue with you, it would seem that you would get to a true root cause quicker and I would suspect the cost would be lower instead of doctors working in their specialty silos.
Have you ever gone to the doctor when something is wrong and they sent you to a different doctor that is a specialist? Then Specialist A runs all his test and claims nothing is wrong, so he sends you to Specialist B. Specialist B runs his test and says your are fine and this goes on for what seems like an eternity. Finally some doctor tries something and it maybe it works and maybe it doesn’t. Is it just helping the symptom or is it the root cause?
Having doctors work in collaborative teams would seem to have the patients best interest in mind and create a stronger health care system. I know we wouldn’t want to set up the health care system to do this for every problem. We could develop standardized work that would state when to call together a team of doctors and when to have doctors work individually.
We have torn down a part of the collaboration wall in manufacturing. Can we start to tear down that wall with doctors?