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The Collaborative Animal



Besides the shameless self-promotion of quoting a section about myself from Allen & Jarmans' book, Collaborative R&D, Manufacturing's New Tool, I heartily recommend the book to anyone interested in multi-corporate collaborative efforts.

These are experiences derived from real collaborations that the authors and myself participated in through the Rapid Response Manufacturing Consortium (an early Advanced Technology Program). The consortium consisted of Texas Instruments, General Motors, Ford Motor Company, United Technologies (Advance Research Center and Pratt & Whitney), and Oak Ridge National Laboratories and ten or so smaller supplier companies.

The collaboration spanned:

  • Defense & Commercial Sectors
  • Automotive, Aerospace, National Laboratory
  • Competitors.

… and through all of this diversity, was successful in producing results for each company that couldn't be enjoyed through separate non-collaborative pursuit.

Collaborative R&D Cover

"The Collaborative Animal"

Excerpt from the book
[click the cover picture to go to Amazon and buy]

Larry Johnson describes himself as a collaborative animal. He exhibits characteristics that promote collaboration. He is very personable and very intelligent. Larry Johnson exemplifies the optimal characteristics required for a person to be successful in collaborative development. They are the best people in an organization, and they are committed to the collaborative R&D assigned. They have to be people who are capable of (1) independent thinking and (2) taking constructive action. They have to be:

  • Confident in their own intelligence.
  • Smart enough to know what they don't know.
  • Capable of learning quickly.
  • Willing to share information.
  • Confident in their own position.
  • Able to understand other's perspectives such that they can help make the best decisions on actions that need to be taken.
  • Able to take actions and make things happen within their company or organization.

While at Texas Instruments, Mr. Johnson worked with others in drafting the basis for developing software that can operate with ultimately any other software across all computers, a computer software architecture for interoperability. This work became the foundation for the computer architectures that were later adapted by the Rapid Response Manufacturing (RRM) program and the National Industrial Information Infrastructure Protocols (NIIIP) Consortium. Mr. Johnson then worked through the RRM program to validate and evolve this architecture. He became the chairman of the RRM Interoperability Services Working Group, where he coordinated efforts to develop a standard interface to Product Data Management (PDM) software systems to enable them to interoperate. The conclusion of this effort, which piloted a Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) interface to the Metaphase PDM system, coincided with a call from the Object Management Group (OMG)2 for inputs to develop the CORBA PDM standard. Mr. Johnson coordinated the results of this RRM work with seven other inputs from software companies that develop and sell PDM systems, efforts that continued after he went to work for the MacNeal-Schwendler Corporation, In coordinating the development of the Joint PDM submission to the OMG, the acceptance by OMG of the submission as the standard followed. Mr. Johnson is now a co-chair of the OMG Manufacturing Domain Task Force, continuing efforts to evolve software interoperability, a mission that can be likened to getting everyone in the world to be able to understand each other in the same language.

The individuals in collaborative development, like Larry, are intrapreneurs (an entrepreneur employed by a large company). They need to then be able to implement the actions they decide on. They have to have the support of corporate management to do what they do. Often they don't have the resources to perform all the needed actions, and have to depend on their relationships within the organization to be able to get others to take action. These people are an organization's best doers. They know what needs to be done, and ensure that it gets done regardless of their position. These are the people in an organization you turn to in order to get things done.

The credibility of the companies and individuals involved in collaborative development is enhanced by their ability to follow through with their commitments. The manner in which commitments are met provides the basis for building the trust needed to build strategic relationships. Meeting commitments must not only benefit the participating company, but should be done in a manner that is beneficial to all participating parties. Failing to meet commitments, or meeting them in a way that is not beneficial to the other participants in a collaborative development program can undermine the reputation of an individual or a good company.

The ability and enjoyment of working with other very capable people generates a camaraderie within a successfully operating collaborative development team. The group becomes a fraternity of individuals who know that they can trust one another.

2 OMG is a consortium of over 800 software vendors, software developers, and end users. OMG moves forward in establishing the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) as the "middleware that's everywhere" through its worldwide standard specifications CORBA/IIOP, Object Services, Internet Facilities, and Domain Interface specifications. Established in 1989, OMG's mission is to promote the theory and practice of object technology for the development of distributed computing systems. The goal is to provide a common architectural framework for object-oriented applications based on widely available interface specifications.

Book Description

[This is a description of the above book from]

The ability to collaborate, particularly in new manufacturing technology development, is becoming a corporate competence that will determine which companies survive in the next decade. With the advent of the telecommunications and information infrastructure realized in the 1990's, companies that can effectively collaborate to get new technologies applied will stand a greater chance of remaining competitive in today's market.

Collaborative R&D offers the methods and metrics for developing collaborative technology programs and partnerships, both within the industry and between major competitors. R&D experts Allen and Jarman provide a complete map for collaboration, taken from their collective years of experience in creating, promoting, and managing many collaborative R&D initiatives over the past decade. They include the guidelines for determining what technology development areas are appropriate for collaboration, and what ingredients need to be in place for it to be successful.

The authors' experiences are detailed in a format that walks the reader through the process of identifying, starting, and managing collaborative R&D programs. Having developed these programs with companies like Ford, Texas Instruments, Boeing, AT&T, and Kodak, Allen and Jarman include numerous real-world examples, which show how to choose collaborative partners, how to use the government in establishing R&D programs, successful management techniques, means of addressing intellectual property, and how to address accounting concerns.

The book also illustrates the significant benefits of collaborative R&D, helping managers and technology professionals realize its value by enabling them to make the most knowledgeable decisions and take the best actions possible, in any given situation. Among some of the benefits that have resulted from the authors' collaborative programs:

  • Pratt & Whitney developed software tools that enabled them to keep one of their plants from closing.
  • Ford reduced a two-week design process to four hours.
  • An acceleration by at least a year in 32 key Printed Wiring Board research tasks resulted in research savings of about $35.5 million.

    Collaborative R&D is valuable reading for any business that plans to thrive in a new global economy where all available financial and human assets will need to be leveraged for the greatest return and with minimal risk.

    "R&D means innovation, productivity, and growth the three things our economy needs the most. This important new book explains how and why the R&D revolution is transforming American industry, a theme everyone who cares about the future of our economy should understand." Jerry Jasinowski, President, National Association of Manufacturers.

    "Allen and Jarman provide the definitive pathway to competitive advantage through collaborative R&D, the new tool for cost-effective innovation in the twenty-first century." Leo Reddy, President, National Coalition for Advanced Manufacturing.

    "Collaboration among companies is very new in American industry. Most companies are still striving to have their own employees collaborate with each other. This book portrays the strength and power of intercompany collaboration." Jack E. Swindle, Senior Vice President, Texas Instruments.

    "This is a must read for any entrepreneur thinking of becoming involved in cross-organizational collaboration, for any corporate executive concerned about how cross-organizational R&D collaboration will help his company to remain competitive in the future, and for any manager who is responsible for managing people involved in cross-organizational collaborative efforts." Dr. Ann Majchrzak, Professor of Information Systems, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California

    "Collaborative R&D is mandatory reading for any enterprise leader looking to expand and leverage market influence." Mike McEvoy, Vice President, Advanced Engineering and Design Center, Baxter Healthcare Corporation.

    Book Info
    Offers the methods and metrics for developing collaborative technology programs and partnerships, both within the industry and between major competitors. Provides a complete map for collaboration, taken from their collective years of experience in creating, promoting, and managing many collaborative R&D initiatives. DLC: Research, Industrial.


Amazon Book Reviews

[These are reviews of the above book from The book was rated 5-stars based on two reviews]

Reviewer: Robert Morris
an Amazon Top Ten Reviewer
from Dallas, Texas

As they explain, Allen and Jarman identify and then explain "the basis for conviction by believers in the process of collaborative development in manufacturing R&D that we are adding value to a system that will help to sustain and ensure the stability and progression of the economic engines that provide the foundation for improving society." Note the correlation the authors draw between increased manufacturing productivity and social benefit. They organize their material within five Parts: Collaboration, Ingredients of Collaboration, Starting a Collaborative program, Tools for Collaboration, Making Collaboration Work, and Tomorrow's Business Culture -- Collaboration. They then provide ten appendices which range from "Printed Wiring Board (PWB) program" to "Examples of Mr. Allen's Networks with Major End Users."

Here in a single source is about all that most decision-makers need to know when designing and then implementing a program by which to establish and then sustain collaboration with participation, as wide and deep as possible, by everyone directly and even indirectly associated with a given organization. Allen and Jarman also suggest metrics by which to evaluate the progress of such collaboration. Time and again, we are reminded that "you can't manage what you can't measure." I agree. But first there must be a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective program, one which is appropriate to the specific needs and objectives of the organization for which it has been formulated.

With regard to the future of collaboration, Allen and Jarman explain that their objective has been to "expand the amount of collaborative opportunity to people at all levels worldwide, to give them an easy means to learn, to escape the shackles of their culture, their nationalism, prejudice, and interface with the world as members of the human race." In that event, they will have "a positive appreciation for the culture and nation they belong to, yet foster better understanding as to how the world is integrated into one vast socioeconomic-political system." Only then can they "better understand their role in the world and how they can play a constructive part in ensuring that the future is better for their families." Whatever a given organization may manufacture, it also has the opportunity to create with all other organizations what the authors view as an infrastructure of spiritual values by which to nourish all of humanity.


from San Diego, CA

This book was very difficult to put down, the information provided was without a doubt both stimulating and informative. Will enhance my career in R&D significantly. I will recommend this book to my colleagues and associates.

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This page last updated 11-July-2003

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