During a lively debate at the NEC Users Group seminar someone asked why we were talking about collaboration when the contract only asks for “a spirit of mutual trust and cooperation”, what followed was a discussion on the difference between those two concepts. It’s an interesting distinction and this blog seeks to answer the following questions -
Anyone can cooperate. Obeying the speed limit, putting the rubbish out, signing a contract. These actions are evidence of cooperation – assisting someone or complying with their requests.
Collaboration is different. It requires a positive choice to be made. Working jointly on an activity or project is collaborative working and that requires shared ownership and a shared concept of a common problem. Communication is required, along with potentially negotiation and compromise.
So the distinction between cooperation and collaboration could be defined as the difference in how we participate, it’s either active or inactive. People can cooperate by taking no action at all. It would be hard to say the same about collaboration.
So in order to collaborate we must communicate, possibly negotiate and compromise whilst taking positive actions. It sounds like hard work!
How is the NEC3 contract written to compel cooperation and facilitate collaboration?
The NEC3 contract outlines a framework in which to cooperate. It even makes that cooperation a contractual obligation in the form of clause 10.1 –
The Employer, the Contractor, the Project Manager and the Supervisor shall act as stated in this contract and in a spirit of mutual trust and cooperation.
Here are some examples of where the NEC3 contract provides processes to impose cooperation and goes further to facilitate collaboration –
As we can see above the NEC3 contract is embedded with processes that engender at least cooperation however it cannot force the positive actions and assertiveness that results in collaboration.
What are the real and practical steps that can be taken to achieve a collaborative project environment?
Building on the NEC3 contract’s framework for collaborative working as described above, outlined below are 6 simple and practical guidelines which can be followed by all –
It’s difficult to answer succinctly what the difference is between cooperation and collaboration however we all know it when we see it. The NEC3 contract has been drafted to provide a cooperative platform and, as outlined above, we can build on that with good practice to create a collaborative environment “in a spirit of mutual trust and cooperation”.
Collaborative working is kept simple with CEMAR –