No doubt, the Christmas terror attack on Northwest Flight 253 as it was about to land in Detroit was a spectacular failure in collaboration among various national and international government agencies. Headlines tell the story! In a thoughtful post in Harvard Business Review blog, Preventing the Terrorist Attack: Massive Failure in Collaboration, Morten Hansen provides the background, the reasons for failure and recommendations on what can be done. The author specifically identifies two key barriers to collaboration: i) The Hoarding Barrier, created by officials not willing to share information, and ii) The Search Barrier, of inability of agents to search through the information.
Blogosphere has been generally less insightful than Morten Hansen. Other media - TV and newspapers - have also focused on the failure in collaboration. And, rightly so! We need to examine "the system” to fix whatever allowed this to happen. But that would be fighting the last war. We need to make collaboration work in future scenarios, which we will confront, without a doubt.
The spectacular failure has also become a political football among political parties as well as ideologues on the right and left. Their first purpose appears to be to score political points as we approach the silly season of elections later this year. Fixing the problems in collaboration appears to be secondary. These idiots need to realize that security is not a partisan issue – terrorists do not differentiate between the left and right, national and international boundaries, and ethnic, racial and religious composition. Sorry, I digress! But there is a lesson for collaboration here too: Bickering does not make for effective collaboration, and hidden agendas make collaboration an unmitigated disaster.
The spectacular failure in collaboration has provided opportunities for both improving our system of security and political bickering. Somewhere in this shuffle, we are really missing out on a great story of spectacular success in collaboration that prevented what could have been a horrific Christmas. This story has a simple yet extremely powerful message on collaboration: when collaboration matters, we make it happen!
Passengers on Northwest Flight 253 had a clear purpose for collaboration; it is survival. People involved in collaboration were highly motivated to achieve their goal and were in the vicinity of the would-be bomber. The process was improvised yet focused on the desired outcome for the seconds it took to subdue the would-be bomber. And the tools were bare hands and all the physical force they could muster, despite suffering injuries through it all. But they made it happen! Well done, indeed! And the reward for effective collaboration? A wonderful gift of life! Purpose combined with motives and incentives is indeed a key driver for effective collaboration.
We have earlier proposed a holistic framework of 4 Ps of effective collaboration. Let me briefly compare and contrast “the system” and the “passengers on Flight 253” using our collaboration model.
I recognize that govt. agencies can not everywhere, all the time, to be in the middle of the action. This is not the purpose of the above table. What I am suggesting however is that when the purpose is clear, something personally and collectively is at stake, collaborators are motivated, they can make it happen with through leadership, team structure and incentives.
See Related Posts:
- The 4Ps of Effective Collaboration - Redux
- Collaboration = Cooperative Behavior + Assertive Behavior
- If You Can’t Pass the Ball, You Can’t play!
- BP Oil Spill - Unmitigated Disaster in Collaboration
- Get Teammates to Move "Towards" Rather than "Away"
- Short Stories From The Front
- Learning from Real-Life Collaboration Stories