In the words of Henry Ford, "Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success." I am always grateful that I get to work for an organization where one of its guiding principles is to promote collaboration throughout the cereals value chain. It is for this reason that I want to come to work every day. There is always a new issue, something to work on, and something to learn that 9.9 times out of 10 requires some sort of collaborative process.
In such a diverse industry, there are bound to be differences of opinion, values and agendas, yet I have had opportunities to see a room full of people put those personal opinions aside in order to benefit the whole. Reflection on this process, I believe, is just as important as the actual collaboration itself. Especially in light of a time where mergers, re-negotiation of NAFTA, a new Canadian Food Guide, grain transportation legislation, growing protectionism in key markets, just to name a few issues facing our industry.
It is important to keep in mind in all of our opportunities to collaborate, what defines success, and what we can think about during our next opportunity to work together.
I believe that a major part of collaborative success would have an environment focused on alignment, removing roadblocks, and increasing productivity. This can be achieved if each individual and organization is accountable, organized, motivated, engaged and is focused on achieving the best result for the industry as a whole. This does not mean that you have to agree with everyone all the time, but it does mean that you have to listen to the ideas of others. It truly is about having a valuable conversation.
Just as it is important to listen, it is equally as important to check if what we are sharing is of value. Sometimes it is easy to get off track, or into the weeds on issues that can touch on something that we are passionate about. It is important to always make sure that what we share is bringing insight and value to the goal of improving the profitability of the value chain and not just aimed at winning an argument or supporting our personal philosophical outlook. Communicating clearly is a major part of what will help define success throughout the collaborative process.
It is also important to note that not all collaborative processes can be successful. If the goal isn’t right, or the collaborative group is not individually ready to communicate together, then the collaboration has already failed. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it can allow for us to rethink our goals and make sure that we have the right people around the table who are motivated to move the process along.
I am part of the grain industry. There are quite a few producer and industry organizations serving this part of agriculture. The whole industry will benefit if we step out of our silos to cooperate on issues like, market development, food safety, promoting international trade, sustainability and public trust, science-based regulations, market concerns with pesticide residues, and many more. I don’t think we serve our members well if we isolate ourselves within our individual organizations. And we need to recognize that effective collaboration will sometimes require a bit of compromise.
As my Henry Ford quote indicates, it is not just about getting people together, it really is about having a motivated and diverse group of people, who are willing to work together on behalf of everyone. I am still learning a lot about the world of Canadian agriculture and all of its intricacies, and I am excited to be a part of a growing and changing industry that is being built on the shoulders of change makers and collaborative leaders.