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Creating a system of collaboration

Updated: Oct 28, 2021

When it comes to creating a person-centered organization, a common mistake is focusing solely on performing new activities as a means of changing the culture.

For example, running a co-design project is a great way to ensure a particular program or service is designed with the input of your most important stakeholders, but there is still the rest of your organisation that isn’t working in a person-centred way. Don’t get me wrong, it's a good start, but you'll also need to change the systems, processes and the way your organisation operates on a day to day basis, in addition to the one project. You must change the management operating system (how you manage your organisation) that generates the outputs in order to achieve person-centered outcomes.

Creating a system that supports collaboration is the next step for many organisations. A system that allows your clients to have a meaningful impact with input into decision making at all levels. A system is essentially all the different things that make up your organisation's outputs. It includes your meetings, strategy, planning, training, performance assessment and how you reward and recognize your staff.

A really good analogy is when you go on a fad diet. You may get some good early results, but it's never as effective or as long lasting as if you make sustainable lifestyle changes to your diet, that are also coupled with exercising and proper rest etc. It’s about changing the way you live your life, not about performing a new task such as eating kale smoothies for a short period of time. It's not that performing one off activities or projects is bad; it's simply that you want to change your management operating system and the way you work as an organisation, as this makes it easier for everyone in your team to become truly person-centered and work in this way sustainably into the future.

The goal to create a person-centered organisation

First, it starts with you as the leaders being on board with that philosophy and making the commitment to creating a person centered organisation.


Then the work starts with your strategy. If you are running projects and engagement activities and your strategy has not been informed by what your people need and it's not heading in a person-centred direction, then you are going to get some disconnections as you progress. So, we need to start with strategy as part of that system, making sure that you have involved clients, stakeholders, people with lived experiences so that every single thing you do from here will include these important perspectives.


Most often, leaders find it difficult to create person-centered organisations as they’re not able to change the way they work. Programs are created without involving the right people and you don't collect reports or feedback. To avoid this, continually communicate with your team and ask what got in the way. It might be because people have never been trained or they get stuck and revert to old comfortable ways of working. Share stories across the organisation that include the voice of your clients so that people can see what good looks like.

Facilitating engagement

How can you make collaboration with your clients easier for your people? Well, giving everybody the opportunity and empowering them with training is one way. The other way is to make it easy for your people at all levels of the organisation to get feedback from advisory groups or to have access to a pool of people that can be involved in their projects. This way it becomes pretty easy to collaborate, removing a lot of the barriers of locating the right people and engaging them.

The importance of being able to see the Impact

Evaluating your impact is an important way to make sure that you're continuously improving. Without evaluation you can’t be sure you are having the impact in the areas you need to, in order to deliver on your mission.

The benefits

A system is essentially a way of bringing everything together. It not only makes it easier for everybody to understand what comes next and what's required but also makes it easier for them to make decisions. So, setting up a system for collaboration rather than just trying to manage a bunch of activities gives everyone the ability to take action.

We are creatures of habit. To change the way people work, you have to support them. Provide them with a strategy, show them where you're heading as an organisation and why it's important to get this right. If you get those pieces right, you're going to get the right output. If you're still not getting those things right, go back and look at that system. If you understand where it is and where it isn't working, then it can help you to understand where to get started and what to do next.

Humans love to collaborate. We are much happier when we are working with other people, having a system that supports this makes work easier and more fun for everyone. Plus, will ensure you deliver tangible impact to the people you support.

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