Measure For Collaboration, Not Competition

by Stacey Barr |

We all know that what you measure influences people’s behaviour. So if you want people to collaborate to improve corporate performance, rather than compete to improve personal performance (often at the expense of corporate performance), measure for collaboration, not competition.

Here are 5 practical steps to help your team measure for collaboration to improve corporate performance, and help put an end to measures that trigger fights about who’s right and who’s wrong, rather than dialogue about how to achieve shared goals.

STEP #1: Forget about measuring individual people’s performance.

You read it right. And yes, I know it’s common practice in many organisations to do this. They believe that organisational performance is the sum of individual people’s performance. But take a closer look at those organisations and you’ll see that people will game the measures to get good personal performance reviews at the expense of what’s best for their team or the organisation.

STEP #2: Make regular time each week for the team to talk about shared goals.

This time for discussion about shared goals might be part of your existing team meetings. Or you could create a quick and easy stand-up meeting to check on progress of a goal, or discuss the meaning of a new goal, or explore ideas to achieve a goal more collaboratively.

STEP #3: Never blame people for performance shortfalls – always look to the process for clues about how to improve performance.

Blame threatens the dignity of the people it is thrown at, and that takes personal power away from those people. If we seriously want people engaged in improving performance, they need to feel more empowered, not more disempowered. The majority of people want to do a good job, so make it easy for them!

STEP #4: Reward people for using measures to improve performance.

Reward them for looking for causes of performance shortfalls, finding potential solutions to improve performance, for learning from their performance-improving experiments. And one of the best rewards is public recognition and celebration of what they’ve achieved. Encourage a culture of tracking, testing and tuning together.

STEP #5: Invite and encourage people to work together to design new and more meaningful measures.

People share goals and should share the creation of measures for them. Creating new measures through discussion helps people converge on the same understanding of the goals they share, and helps them understand each others’ points of view about those goals. With a democratic process to decide what to measure, the resulting buy-in will help the measures be used for collaboration, not competition.


Think of a team in your organisation where more performance improvement collaboration is needed. Which of the above 5 steps do you think will help them the most? Is there an opportunity for you to talk to them about this step, or to suggest how they can make some constructive progress toward better performance?

Speak Your Mind

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  1. In my book, The Spider’s Strategy (selected “One of the 30 Best Business Books of 2009”), I argue that we live in a world in which individual companies no longer compete with each other. Instead, networks of companies compete with other networks. The greater the collaboration among network partners, the greater the ability of individual partners to do well. Indeed, it is very hard for an individual company to win, if its network is failing.

    Yet, far too few executives and managers behave in accordance with the implications of this new reality. Promoting collaboration — with the right partners — is one of the most important tasks they have today. And you can’t promote collaboration externally if you don’t promote it internally.

    I’d add a few more rules to the ones you have given. These are based on discussions with a senior executive at one of my research sites who runs what is considered the single largest supply network in the world:
    1) The pursuit of “accountability” kills collaboration. It often keeps people from openly identifying potential problems early.
    2) The adoption of anything resembling ABC evaluation kills collaboration.
    3) On a positive note, if you want two groups to collaborate, give each one goal that is critically important to another. For example, one goal for manufacturing/procurement/logistics people in this company is “Customer service levels,” while the one goal for sales people is “inventory levels.” To succeed itself, each side has to help the other do so.

    Dr. Amit Mukherjee
    Author, The Spider’s Strategy
    President, Ishan Advisors

  2. Trish says:

    Hi Stacey,

    I’ve just come across your article in 2020 while researching a new process we are working to implement at my place of work.

    11 years on, this advice is so relevant and thought provoking, it makes you wonder why organisations would choose to operate in any other way.

    Thank you so much,

    • Stacey Barr says:

      Thanks Trish – I agree with you about how baffling it is that organisations haven’t all realised this. This article is old, like hundreds on my blog from more than 10 years ago, but some ideas are still not as commonly implemented as they should be!

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