Collaborative management is a term that is used to describe various management techniques that promote a sense of unity and teamwork among managers and supervisors within a business organization. The idea behind this type of management style is to allow managers to combine their strengths with the strengths of other members of the team, making it possible to collectively offset any weaknesses that may be found among the team members. In theory, this approach is supposed to enhance the efficiency of all operations within the company and in turn have a positive influence on employee morale, vendor relations, and even consumer perceptions regarding the business.
While the exact strategies vary, any type of collaborative management style varies somewhat from more traditional management techniques. One of the most obvious is the team approach to managing the business. While each manager does retain specific areas of responsibility and accountability, the incidence of managers conferring with one another on issues regarding day to day functioning of the departments in their care is encouraged. This means that the managers come together more often to brainstorm on how to deal with a developing issue in one department or area of the company, with the goal of overcoming the issue before it has a chance to negatively impact other areas of the operation.
The scope of collaborative management methods used in this type of corporate environment is often determined by the nature of the business, the size of the management team, and the types of operational issues that are common to that particular business model. Managers may come together on an as-needed basis in a less formal setting, or choose a more structured platform for interaction that involves one or two meetings each week. With the more structured approach, the team may utilize various reporting methods to identify what is happening in various areas of the operation, evaluate those events, and then collectively respond in whatever manner the team considers appropriate. This is in contrast to situations in which departmental managers simply turn in reports to owners and operate more or less autonomously, handling issues in their departments more or less on their own.
While proponents of collaborative management often cite the benefits of combing strengths inherent in each manager with the strengths of others to overcome potential obstacles in the business operation, critics sometimes note that this type of management by committee arrangement does have some drawbacks. One potential liability of a collaborative management approach is that a manager working in a collaborative environment may not feel empowered to make decisions on the spot when necessary. As the result of the delay while gathering managers together to deal with an emerging situation, valuable time is lost. In addition, it is less likely that it will be possible to resolve an issue before it has the chance to spread to other areas of the business, making it much harder to handle effectively.