Edward White of the Collaborative Institute says that every organization
has “white spaces” (or dead zones or blank areas) — i.e., gaps in our work
relationships or processes where no one seems responsible for the process
or the results, yet they affect everyone. They are organizational places
where the work force will cooperate with each other only to the extent
absolutely necessary to get the job done, but they won’t really collaborate
(something that requires much more consensus, ownership and alignment in
decision-making and problem-solving.) White asks: “How much time do we
spend managing the ‘boundaries of our discontent?’ Conflicts that occur in
the white spaces mean that the associates involved will spend their time
talking about, handling, and working around the politics and personalities
of these relationship issues rather than focusing on real work.” So what
should an organization do about these white spaces? First, admit it has
them, then address them with explicit rules (called “Operating Agreements”)
for collaborative teams to follow in order to build high trust across
departments and business units. A problem won’t go away by itself: it needs
to be recognized and dealt with. (Triangle Business Journal 30 Jun 2003