Cherwell IT Service Management Blog
Resources, Best Practices, and Solutions for ITSM Pros

Are You a Team Player? Social Collaboration vs. Teamwork

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I admit it: I am a very competitive person. My favorite sports have always been individual sports. In high school, I ran the hurdles in track and loved it. Why? It was meExcellent customer service creates an outstanding customer experience against myself and the rest of the field. If won, I won. And if I lost, I lost. My success or failure was not dictated by the actions or inaction’s of others. Bottom line, I am not the ideal team player.

Here at Cherwell, the running joke is that I will often charge up a hill, only to see everyone over on another hill. But, since I work at a software company, like any other organization, I guess I have to work hard at being a team player. End of discussion.

Or do I?  Follow along with me…

A few blogs ago, I discussed how ITSM Collaboration is more than just Social Media. It has to be about people, process, and, of course, about technology. The more I read about collaboration, the more I realize there is a lot of confusion between “collaboration”and “teamwork.”

Andrew Campbell of the Harvard Business Review wrote a great blog titled “Collaboration Overused and Misunderstood“. In the article he discussed the difference between teamwork and collaboration. Here is my summary of the blog:


  • Actions are interdependent, but they are fully committed to a single result.
  • Needs to reach joint decisions about many aspects of their work, and they will be cautious about taking unilateral action without checking with each other to make sure there are no negative side effects.
  • Have someone with the authority to resolve disputes, ensure coordinated action and remove disruptive or incompetent members.


  • Will have some shared goals, but they often also have competing goals.  Also, the shared goal is usually only a small part of their responsibilities.
  • Cannot rely on a leader to resolve differences.
  • Cannot walk away from each other when they disagree.

For example, you know all those social collaboration tools out there that various teams in an organization, like sales, want to use? Is deciding on a tool teamwork or collaboration? In my mind it’s collaboration:

  • IT wants to use a tool they have some control over and can troubleshoot if needed. Sales wants to use what they are familiar with and are positive their tool is the best one because it works on any device. (Competing Goals. Collaboration 1 – Teamwork 0)
  • If IT doesn’t agree, sales will simply download the free social collaboration without IT even being aware and use—regardless of the “official stance.” (Taking unilateral action even if it is negative. Collaboration 2 – Teamwork 0)
  • The head of sales will do whatever the sales team needs to be successful, and the head of IT will do whatever IT needs to manage their environment. (No leader/authority to resolve differences and deliver an edict.  Collaboration 3 – Teamwork 0)
  • Oh yeah, and sales can’t just tell IT to kiss off, and IT cannot simply stop supporting sales. (Cannot walk away if they disagree. Collaboration 4 – Teamwork 0)

Looks like we have a winner! Collaboration 4 – Teamwork 0 for this example. Sales and IT will have to collaborate to come to a place where they can agree on how they will move forward and what tool or tools will be used. That is why culture is so important. Culture will always trump strategy, and collaboration is one of the best examples of why culture is so mission-critical in this day and age.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for teamwork. When one of our Cherwell customers has an issue with our product, they want to know that our team will work towards a common goal—to fix the issue! They want someone who will step in, if need be, and make sure it is dealt with in a timely manner. They want teamwork.

Maybe that’s why I like it here at Cherwell Software. I am not always expected to be a team player, but I am expected to collaborate. We are building a culture that fosters collaboration. We are building a culture that recognizes teamwork and collaboration without sacrificing either. We are building a culture that makes everyone work together, because we cannot just walk away from each other when we disagree.

I may not be the ideal team player, but I do like to collaborate.

What do you think?