Collaboration and social cohesion.

We are collaborative. We prefer to live well as individuals and to live well together. It is in our nature to do so, even though we have invented relational dynamics that create competition, domination, and subordination. We are the most productive and most innovative when we have the freedom to collaborate.  Social collaboration need not be taught because it is in our social nature to collaborate.

So how do we feel when the cultures we live in deny us our collective preferences for living well together?

We get sick. And there is abundant evidence, such as these findings from a public health study of British government employees.

Those with less job control at work are twice as likely of having coronary heart disease when compared to this who report having high job control.

Those with low effort and high reward jobs as less 30% likely as having coronary heart disease when compared to their peers who have high effort-low reward jobs.

Men and women who receive more social support than their co-workers who receive little are 30-40% less likely to have a mental illness. Whitehall II

Social action research reveals how living and working well together arise in relational behaviors whereby one accepts another as a legitimate collaborator. When we recognize each other as legitimate others; we collaborate and support each other, we share what we know, and we celebrate our accomplishments. When this is allowed to happen, we are living and working well together. There is a trap. We change our verbs to nouns and call this manner of living well together our wellbeing. When we do so we strip the essence of living and working well together from our understanding.

Health is productivity, and social health is as well, consisting of relational behaviors that generate wellbeing, knowledge, and high performance and productivity. This is not a guess or judgment, but my inductive theory of living and working well constructed through three decades of social action research.

Another measure of wellbeing in social networks are maps of social networks of conversations forming from the relational processes reoccurring across a variety of organizational silos, cultures, and settings.

This is the map of a social system a structure of collaborating networks whereby everyone in the network has sees everyone else in the network as collaborators in accomplishing wellbeing.

Social network maps bring forth the question of whether, or not, Industrial Age control management networks determine wellbeing in an organization.  Social action research network maps show that social network runs up, down and across functional and hierarchical boundaries.

In Knowledge Age organizations collaborating is spontaneously happening over time.

Collaborating networks of conversations are dynamic, not static. They are open conversations connecting a myriad of cultures and cultural histories. Relational behaviors determine the productivity of the network and productivity is determined by the presence, or absence of our natural preferences to live well together.

What then is the organizing energy common to all collaboration? I believe it is sharing a commonly shared purpose.

Project management fundamentals are used to ensure performance in Industrial Age management hierarchies. I have designed the Accomplishment Model for Knowledge Age organizations and for collaborating across the organization, as well as others outside the organization, around a shared purpose.

A Dynatron example.

I invented the Accomplishment Model with my colleagues while I was staring up and managing a small electronics business I called Dynatron. Dynatron was both an electronics business and research site for the University of Oregon. I employed people with developmental disabilities subjected to unmentionable abuse and neglect and with the University of Oregon and sister shops in Seattle, Boston, and Eugene Dynatron proved that those once subject to abandonment in state institutions could work productively.

We found that the most effective approach to improving productivity was to use data on a daily basis to coordinate action. At Dynatron, every afternoon we would talk about our performance as a business and social care organization. We wanted to contribute to a civil rights movement that would end eugenics era state institutionalization. To make our contribution we need to create evidence that;

  1. We were employing people abandoned in institutions,
  2. We could get work,
  3. We could keep work,
  4. We could help our employees integrate in community settings.

Handwritten data that is used to collaboratively coordinate action is infinitely better than digital information that does not.

I began developing this approach toward collaborative performance around a shared purpose as a visual performance and productivity system. You can see the entire performance system in a simple decision tree.


Creating an accomplishment model

I designed the accomplishment model to guide operational performance as a flow beginning with findings from social action research. Social action research starts by listening to people talk about what they have accomplished and generates understanding, trusting, and collaborating on a shared purpose. By listening to a group of people, consistencies or operational coherences appear. The social network of relations that create valued accomplishments are mapped, and the participants in the social action research are invited to celebrate their collective performance and validate the findings. The final step in social action research is to develop an Accomplishment Model.

Purpose, strategies, tactics and tasks coordinating daily actions

The Accomplishment Model process begins by the group answering the question, “What is our shared purpose?”

The next question is, “What do we have to accomplish to achieve our purpose?” These are strategies that if accomplished together as a system will achieve our purpose.

The next question probably won’t surprise you, “What do we have to accomplish to achieve our strategies?” These are tactics that if accomplished together will achieve our strategies.

Do not wordsmith the Accomplishment Model because it will kill the spirit of the group and drive joy right out of the process. It is more important to feel the purpose than it is to wordsmith it.

Data is language

With the Accomplishment Tree in place, another simple question is asked for every level and every accomplishment, “How will we know when we accomplish this (purpose-strategy-tactic)?”


The Accomplishment Model is a data-based system. Data is language – the recursive consensual coordination of action. Accomplishment Model data must meet the criteria of validity including:

  1. Data must be actionableleading to the consensual coordination of collective action. If it does not, it is a best distracting and at worse misleading. If it does not, practice until it does.
  2. Data must be relevantin order to be valid. Data that is actionable but irrelevant will not lead to coordinated action.
  3. Data must be timely. Data that is available monthly is better than data that is available quarterly. Data that is available weekly is better than data that is available monthly. Performance is optimized when data is used in daily conversations. There is a relationship between the timeliness of data and collective productivity.
  4. Data must be accessibleto all. Data that is horded and hidden from others has no value at all and obscures the mistakes being made leading to an increase in cost and a decrease in social energy. Data should be publicly posted in blogs, social media, websites and in communities for all to see. Publicly posted data improves productivity and expands the social network of collaboration.


Behavior v Accomplishment

That’s it. The Accomplishment Model is done. The conversations are simple, and the data for all levels is timely (the purpose being annual, strategies are monthly, and tactics are weekly, and tasks are daily), actionable, valid and accessible. The simplicity of the Accomplishment Model belies its’ sophisticated approach to improving performance learned from my years studying productivity, collaborative social networks, and evidence-based positive behavior change.

Performance is the flow of our behavior of consensual coordination of collective actions resulting in valued accomplishments. The simple distinction between behavior and valued accomplishment helps to conserve the free flow of knowledge and information.

A focus on accomplishment instead of behavior replaces management social control hierarchies as being the most effective approach to management. All too often, senior managers focus on behavior even when they lack the background in applied behavior analysis to do so. Focusing on behavior control diminishes individual, and collective productivity eliminates innovation and discovery research and increases costs related to productivity losses and ill health.

Using the accomplishment model

  1. Priorities: deciding where to invest energy.Management’s responsibility is to invest resources and where to invest can debatable and often argued. The Accomplishment Model continually generates data for improvement. Its tree structure is influenced by decision science, using data to prioritize where to invest energy. Tactics are prioritized by scanning each strategy’s performance data for and identifying those requiring immediate action.

  1. Coordinating daily actions. Our daily meeting minutes are a mirror of the accomplishment model and the structure of our studying our performance and planning performance improvement. At Dynatron, I had a yellow plastic binder with daily data structured the same way. Someone coordinated the meeting,another took notes (under the same structure of performance conversations), and everyone participated. Someone volunteered to complete the task and committed to when it would be complete, once a task was brainstormed. The agenda was used again at the end of the next day to determine what tasks were completed before brainstorming the next set of tasks.

  1. The best of the best support the rest. When we used the Accomplishment Model data architecture across a network of shops like Dynatron, we adopted a notion of the role of the exemplar in a system of collaboration. Because research and discovery data guided us, the shop paying the highest monthly wages was the exemplar.

The exemplar was not a hierarchical position, and our Accomplishment Model collected data on a wide range of accomplishments.

If you were a shop manager and needed help with increasing your hours of production you would talk to Eugene. Needing long-term repeat purchases? Call Bend. How about the percent of the workforce working independently? Seattle. And, those most integrated into the community? Boston.

Learning and teaching one another formed the agenda of our annual performance-based conference. Each shop taught, and each shop learned in a continually changing performance improvement dialog. The exemplar not only had responsibility for their shops’ performance but was also shared their knowledge with the shop struggling most with a particular accomplishment. Eugene in the case of hours of production would support Boston with the fewest hours of production. This practice of collaboration formed a technical assistance and support network.

Steps for creating the exemplar-based collaborative network.

a) Use accomplishment model data to identify the exemplary performer.

b) Publicly recognize those generating exemplary accomplishments.

c) Generate collaborative relations by asking the exemplary performer to teach others how they do what they do in creating exemplary outcomes. This is the listening<->understanding<->trusting<->collaborating cycle.

d) The best of the best support the rest by teaching them.

e) Conserve openness and transparency in the accomplishment models data sharing system.

Using social action research and the Accomplishment Model for collaborating with customers

The Industrial Age history of management by control practices separates the organization from their customers, except for the sales force. The relations are limited to transactional ties between buyers and sellers.

Coupling social action research with the Accomplishment Model reveals the productive nature of relations such as Hewlett-Packard’s relations with Dynatron in the liberation movement of people with developmental disabilities.

Using social action research to improve customer relations occurs when an organization asks their customer to reflect on a valued accomplishment the two organizations achieved. Over the five-day process we listen to customer executives, managers and workers reflect on the accomplishment and share our learning about how we do what we do in a network of conversations that have brought value to our customer.

Once we know that we know how collaborative performance is co-created with the customer, we start the process of the Accomplishment Model by asking, “What do we need to accomplish going forward?”, and with the answers formulate the purpose, strategies, and tactics.

Presented here is an example from the health care industry.

Whenever we feel transactional relations in customer relations, we feel how the conversations are uni-directional.  The customer gives us money, and we give them services or goods. The goods or services remain static for as long as the customer has supplied the money to pay for them. This relationship is not only uni-directional but static as well and is designed as a linear sequential flow.

Whenever we recognize the performance co-created by an organization and its customers, we feel collaboration and social wellbeing. Because the Accomplishment Model was invented to support collaborative social networks, it can transform Industrial Age customer relations.