Internal collaboration on some projects can be bad for your law department

To paraphrase a recent article, a general counsel should not ask, “How can I get people to collaborate more?” The general counsel should ask, “Will collaboration on this project create or destroy value?” The article, in the Harv. Bus. Rev., Vol. 86, April 2009 at 84, makes the intuitive point that greater collaboration may cause delays and wasted time; not every project requires a team at full throttle (See my post of Feb. 1, 2009: project teams of law departments with 39 references and 4 metaposts.).

The author explains a “simple calculus for differentiating between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ collaboration using the concept of a collaboration premium.” The collaboration premium is the difference between the projected financial return on a project and two other factors – opportunity cost and collaboration costs (See my post of Sept. 9, 2008: opportunity costs and legal department management.).

Hence, if you designate six people to work together on selection of a software system, you should try to figure out the return on investment from the software, and then subtract the value of alternative uses of team members’ time as well as impediments all the coordination and demands of teamwork cause the team (See my post of Oct. 22, 2008: ROI with 17 references.). Readers may agree with me that the suggested formula is much easier to state than to calculate.

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