Thanksgiving, a collaborative affair


Today is a special day in the United States. So I’d like to take this opportunity to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all of my friends and colleagues in the USA (plus those in Canada who celebrate in a few weeks).

Thanksgiving got me thinking about the APM’s programme management conference that I attended two days ago. The event actually focused on “Using programme management to achieve transformational change in an era of austerity”, in a nutshell, “Delivering more for less”, so not really related to Thanksgiving (unless you take “Delivering more for less” literally).

Throughout the day the various presenters managed to weave in four cross-cutting themes namely: Competence, Collaboration, Change and Community. Ten excellent thought provoking sessions that raised nearly one hundred questions from the delegates. (For more information see my post from yesterday)

Three of those conference themes are particularly apt on Thanksgiving, namely Collaboration, Change and Community.

After all Thanksgiving Day in the USA/Canada is traditionally a holiday to give thanks at end of the harvest season. Thanks for a successful and abundant crop that see communities and their people through an often bleak Winter.

Such harvest festivals are celebrated the world over, many for than 500 years. Customs have been established around the gathering of the final harvest just before the season change. People come together, collaborate and socialise, bringing produce from the garden, allotments or farms and join together to celebrate as a community.

I’ve only participated in a few Thanksgiving celebrations (I’m British and living in Britain, so we don’t do it), but have visited the US or been in the UK with US friends on the fourth Thursday in November. Strangely all these dinners have been collaborative affairs.

Oddly a transient community of family and friends (colleagues too) gathered and shared the work load and responsibility (and risk in a few cases; with at least one severely undercooked turkey) for the unique and incredibly varied culinary delights. The fourth of the APM’s cross-cutting themes “Competence” unfortunately didn’t factor into every course that was eaten!

I think the term “pot luck” was the term used, quite apt in summing up the collaborative effort of the participants of those dinners.

The meals certainly went way beyond the traditional turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, vegetables, gravy, etc. I suppose the practical, cultural, and financial aspects that we find in business (and certainly in projects and programmes) also had a factor here. Peoples contributions varied greatly, from the meagre (maybe to the point of flouting the collaborative effort or blissful ignorance, who knows) to the lavish, and down right over the top.

More than ever, joint ventures and collaborative associations form an increasingly important part of business and commercial activities the world over. For whatever reason, we all too often neglect to seek out collaborations that may prove beneficial for all parties. Personally I think it is a pity! But then again, I’ve spent several years of my career performing roles that focused on strategic partnerships and alliances.

It’s Thanksgiving, the holiday season that traditionally celebrates successful and abundant outcomes! Really no better time to change and explore a collaborative approach. So seek out a potential partner in your community, join forces and it could lead to a fruitful outcome.

In addition, technological advances have made Thanksgiving dinners more inclusive as families and friends the world over have been able to share in the festivities. The last Thanksgiving dinner I attended had the hosts cousin join in for her Thanksgiving breakfast via Skype (what do you expect, she was living in Australia).

Several years later we have a plethora of social media and collaboration platforms available to us to exploit on this day. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a few Microsoft employees using Lync, Skype and/or Yammer to share in festivities around the globe. NOTE: This is not a gibe at Microsoft; having worked at their UK offices for the best part of 4 years I participated in numerous virtual events utilising several technologies!

Final thought. Such harvest time festivals have traditionally been an opportunity to “count your blessings” and focus on the small things, everyday pleasures and often overlooked successes that we so often ignore or don’t pay any or much attention to!

How often do we do that these days?

Don’t forget that reflecting on these small triumphs might be good for ones “soul”.

Certainly an opportunity to show ones appreciation, whether it’s congratulating yourself or someone else, there is a lot to be said for a “pat on the back” (even if it ends up being virtual).

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