Imagine you’re customizing a product for a client. Managers from different teams work together to determine the requirements, and each team works on the customizations in their area. But when some changes are implemented, it triggers adjustments for other teams. The project’s deadline is extended and the workload increases.
This is one of the scenarios Ron Ashkenas wrote about in Harvard Business Review a few years ago. It’s a simple example of the difference between cooperation and collaboration and how easily they can be confused. In the example, every team is cooperating to customize the product, but they’re not collaborating so their changes work when put together. The result? They don’t reach their desired outcome – or they reach it a lot later, with a lot more work.