Every time an author discusses separating collaboration, cooperation, compromise, and competition into separate pieces and offering one of these as a strategy for success, I want to shout, “none of the offered ‘strategies’ offer the ‘greatest general benefit’ without the support of all the others.” Collaboration is strengthened by cooperation, compromise, and competition. Competition must end in collaboration, cooperation, and compromise; in fact competition will breed collaboration and cooperation to reach a compromise before those being competed against, this is why competition is so powerful, but not independent of the others. The fires of competition are crucial to purifying those collaborating, compromising, and cooperating into a single honed unit that can more effectively work together. Cooperation can do nothing without the shared responsibilities of collaboration and compromise, when competition is added the cooperation is strengthened. Compromise without cooperation or collaboration is nothing and competition is an added value, or force multiplier, to ensuring stronger compromise. None of these can stand alone without elements of the others to support, edify, and multiply the efforts of the humans involved.

The inherent discussion above is condensed from Thomas (1992) who advocated this combined approach to organizational design as a masterstroke to getting people working together. The same basic philosophy can be seen in the writings of Goldratt and Cox (2004), Lencioni (2002), Lundin, Paul, and Christensen (2000), Boynton and Fischer (2005), and Boylan (1995) among many others. Notably, these principles have been understood throughout time, Jucius (1963) in speaking of the broader issues in personnel management, understood the combined power of collaboration, cooperation, compromise, and competition and wrote extensively about how to use these effectively in the organization. Cruickshank and Davis (1958) understood these principles to be a combined and more effective tool than separate strategies of the same general direction, and strove to ensure business leaders understood the practical application and inherent need for the organization to adhere to these principles as a combined effort of all organizational members. McNichols (1963) strove to keep these items combined in the minds of executives; thus, empowering them to discover solutions employing all the strengths in the consolidated collective use of competition, collaboration, compromise, and competition. The empowerment felt in combining these tools, elevates the individual focus into a collected focus and the solutions for an organization are improved dynamically.

Examples of how the combined efforts of collaboration, competition, compromise, and cooperation are found in the writings and research of Collins (2001 & 2006), Collins and Hansen 2011), and Collins and Porras (1994). These books contain many organizational examples of companies employing the combined strategy, collectively harnessing the power in cooperation, compromise, collaboration, and competition to make the long-lasting change from, “Good to Great” organizations. Collins (2001) discusses Walgreen’s transformation and employs the combined power into the new highly successful Walgreen’s store model. Mitchell (2003) discusses the same principles as CEO of Mitchells/Richards Clothing Stores. By embracing the combined power contained, this CEO has kept the family business growing. Both organizations, Walgreen’s and Mitchells/Richards, embraced the energy of collaboration properly supported by compromise and collaboration, invested in internal and external competition, to drive the needed organizational changes. What Collins proves is that the collective power is not particular and rare, but available to all who choose to combine, not separate, collect not disburse, connect and retain not divide and partition. Leadership demands higher practical performance than management (Robinson, 1999; Punia, 2004; and Mintzberg, 1980). The ability to rise higher must include all the attributes, strengths, and collective power found in collaboration, competition, cooperation, and most especially compromise. Having standards does not mean compromising the standards for collaboration, but it means finding common ground in collaborating for a common goal, enhanced in the fires of competition.


Boylan, B. (1995). Get Everyone in Your Boat Rowing in the Same Direction. New York, New York: Barnes & Noble.

Boynton, A., & Fisher, B. (2005). Virtuoso teams: Lessons from teams that changed their worlds. FT Press

Collins, J. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap…and others don’t. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

Collins, J. (2006). Good to great and the social sectors: A monograph to accompany Good to great. London: Random House Business.

Collins, J., & Hansen, M. (2011). Great by choice: Uncertainty, chaos, and luck: Why some thrive despite them all. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Collins, J., & Porras, J. (1994). Built to last: Successful habits of visionary companies. New York: Collins Business Essentials – A Collins Business Book: An Imprint of Harper Collins.

Cruickshank, H., & Davis, K. (1958). Cases in management (2nd ed.). Homewood, Ill.: R.D. Irwin.

Goldratt, E. M., & Cox, J. (2004). The goal: A process of ongoing improvement. (Third Revised ed.). Great Barrington, Massachusetts: North River Press.

Jucius, M. (1963). Personnel management (5th ed.). Homewood, Ill.: R.D. Irwin.

Lencioni, P. (2002). The five dysfunctions of a team: A leadership fable. Hoboken, NJ. John Wiley & Sons.

Lundin, S. C., Paul, H., & Christensen, J. (1996). Fish! A remarkable way to boost morale and improve results. New York, New York: Hyperion.

McNichols, T. (1963). Policy making and executive action; cases on business policy (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Mintzberg, H. (1980). Structure in 5’s: A synthesis of the research on organization design. Management Science (Pre-1986), 26(3), 322. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/205849936?accountid=458

Mitchell, J. (2003). Hug your customers: The proven way to personalize sales and achieve astounding results. New York, NY: Hyperion.

Punia, B. K. (2004). Employee empowerment and retention strategies in diverse corporate culture: A prognostic study. Vision: The Journal of Business Perspective, 8(81), 81-91. doi: 10.1177/097226290400800107

Robinson, G. (1999). Leadership vs management. The British Journal of Administrative Management, 20-21. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/224620071?accountid=458

© 2014 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

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