What’s Your Narrative?

As the Harvard campus comes to life each fall, the diversity in views and backgrounds renews my energy to describe organizational transformation in new ways – making it more approachable and applicable (and sellable) around the globe.

Sometimes finding better descriptions means boiling a concept down to its basics and then putting a new narrative around it. As I (try) to boil it down at the Shared Services Summit, collaboration across organizational boundaries for strategies such as shared services leads to increased value in three fundamental ways:

  • First, we achieve Scale Economies: Organizations can produce more when input proportions are variable – i.e., “We can double our output with less than a doubling of cost.”
  • Second, we gain Scope Economies: Outputs by a single shared organization are greater than outputs that could be achieved by two different organizations each producing on their own. – i.e., “We can share expertise and processes to get more for less.”
  • Third we can develop Learning Economies: Organizational productivity increases as people learn routinized processes. i.e., “We can get better and faster at doing our work.”
  • These three economic pillars are at the heart of the playbook for collaboration and shared services, yet we all put different “wrappers,” narratives or descriptions around them.

Each fall I also think back to the lessons learned from my first semester at Harvard Kennedy School, and particularly the insights of Jerry Mechling. Jerry taught courses on leadership and strategic management for decades and has a special way of explaining collaboration that really brings it home. Check out this video from the 2011 Shared Services Summit in which Jerry provides the classic view of collaboration and shared services.

Does Jerry’s description resonate with you? How do you describe the value of collaboration and shared services nowadays? What’s your narrative? Let me and our fellow community members know and we’ll work your descriptions into the upcoming Shared Services Summit.

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