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Cost of Ineffective Collaboration Behaviours

by Michelle Mortlock and Virginia Loydon on behalf of the Collaborative Behaviours Special Interest Group

25 April 2024

There is increasing recognition of the need to embed collaborative behaviours as a foundation for effective collaborative working. Systems and processes will only get you so far and are by themselves, unlikely to realise the positive project outcomes needed without attending to the individual and team collaborative behaviours that underpin collaboration and collaborative relationships. This is supported by reports from our own membership of increased use of behavioural charters and manifestos to clarify and articulate the behavioural expectations of project staff to support and sustain effective collaboration.

The ICW publication in March 2017, cited a growing number of organisations adopting psychometric tests to align individual behaviour along the lines of collaborative standards and objectives (Understanding Psychology of Collaboration, 2017), and research conducted in partnership with Warwick University has identified that negative behaviour at the individual level can be as impactful - in the counter-productive manner, on our ability to sustain collaboration and deliver positive project outcomes. This research has highlighted the need to consider both positive and negative attitudes and behaviour within the context of the collaboration to proactively avoid failure to work together for the common objectives and goals. However, to date the research on the impact of negative or ineffective collaborative behaviours on project delivery remains scarce.

The Institute of Collaborative Working Behaviours Special Interest Group (BSIG) set about with the aim to explore this topic further. Specifically, what is the impact of ineffective collaborative behaviours on project delivery? And can we quantify that impact as a financial cost?

The BSIG undertook a survey in 2023, on the cost of ineffective collaborative behaviours, the results of which were reported and discussed at our Share and Learn event (August, 2023). This paper aims to summarise and share key findings of this work to assess the impact of ineffective collaborative behaviours on project delivery. This follows anecdotal accounts shared with us, of ineffective collaborative behaviours adversely impacting project delivery and outcomes such as increasing costs, programme delays, decrease in quality, increase in risk and damage to reputation. The aim was to calculate a financial cost to ineffective collaborative behaviours to help raise awareness of the impact given the lack of specific research and encourage a more proactive approach to mitigate the risk of such behaviours on effective collaboration and project delivery.

The Survey

The survey was created in March 2023, with the intent of understanding the cost of ineffective collaborative behaviours on collaborative projects and their outcomes. Using the metric of 'work hours spent', respondents were asked to report impact of ineffective collaborative behaviours by comparing actual work hours spent against those originally forecast, for a recent collaborative project.

A collaborative project was defined as:

"a specific and time-bound enterprise, with defined objectives - where success in their delivery brings benefits to all those involved, that is carefully planned, with the identification of a series of tasks to achieve the objectives and to realise the benefits, where those in the enterprise have purposefully agreed to share the responsibilities to achieve the tasks, deliver the outputs and manage the risks together."

The survey consisted of 3 parts where respondents were asked to:

  1. provide information about their project role, responsibilities and the project. We also asked about the project outcomes, costs and how and why certain types of delays occurred.
  2. provide an assessment of increase (%) of work hours spent on
    1. Resolving contractual matters
    2. Delays relating to inadequate strategic plans
    3. Delays related to relational issues
    4. Delays to ineffective operational problem solving
  3. Provide an assessment of the extent behaviours, processes and contractual clauses impacted the above delays/increase in work hours spent

All responses were anonymised.

The Results

Findings captured have highlighted the potential adverse impact of ineffective collaborative behaviours on project delivery, namely in terms of project delay and work hours spent.

The findings from this work, coupled with further anecdotal feedback obtained at the Lunch and Share event, provides food for thought and suggests further exploration and research would be beneficial. Though the response rate to the survey was low, despite several attempts to improve completion rate, completed surveys were obtained for projects within the defence, transport, aviation, construction and nuclear sectors and indicated that ineffective collaborative behaviours contributed to 45% of project issues, causing an average delay of 30% and an increase in work hours spent of 38%. The findings further highlighted that ineffective collaborative behaviours for the sample obtained, impacted relational issues and problem solving, together contributing to an increase of 46.8% of work hours spent on those projects reported. During discussions at the August 2023 Share and Learn, member feedback alluded to the impact on works hours spent for a wider sample of projects, may be even higher.


The BSIG aim with the survey was to calculate the financial cost of ineffective collaborative behaviours on project delivery and outcomes. Due to the small sample size, this was not possible. However, the findings captured have highlighted the potential adverse impact of ineffective collaborative behaviours on project delivery, namely in terms of project delay and work hours spent. Supported by further anecdotal evidence from our members, we suggest this does warrant further investigation to support the application of suitable actions and collaborative frameworks to reduce the risk associated with such behaviours.

It should also be noted the potential benefit of such research should include other forms of non-financial benefits or 'costs' of effective and ineffective collaborative behaviours such as sustainability, innovation and enhanced reputation.

This research starts to address a gap in the current research of collaboration. It also helps commence the needed dialogue and sharing of lessons learned on the impact of ineffective collaborative behaviours on project delivery. Low survey response rates can be due to survey fatigue, lack of time to participate but we anticipate in this case, there may have also been a reluctance to share information about project delays, even if anonymised, as well as a perceived difficulty attributing work hours spent directly to behaviours. However, the stark figures reported by those responding does warrant further investigation and discussion to help mitigate adverse impact of such behaviours on project delivery and outcomes. The BSIG would like to open and further encourage this discussion as it is only by sharing this information and lessons learned, that we can collectively learn and make better informed decisions to reduce associated risk on our projects.

With this aim, we invite you to a panel discussion in Q2 2024, where we will bring together organisations and research bodies to discuss evidence-based impact of ineffective collaborative behaviours and how we can reduce their impact. We are also interested to hear from those who have specific examples of the impact of ineffective behaviours and successful interventions to reduce their impact, to support our ongoing research in this area. All contributions will be anonymised and collated into a future paper as an update to that completed so far. The reality is that no collaborative relationship is perfect, nor the individuals within it. At some point, there may well be poor, ineffective collaborative behaviours. By understanding the impact of them, it further helps us to mitigate this risk and justify the investment to minimise them from day 1.

Panel Discussion

Details of our panel discussion will be shared soon. The output of the panel discussion will be made available to our members later in the year.

Meanwhile, please contact us at if you have a suitable story to share about ineffective collaborative behaviours on your project, or have yourself examined the impact of ineffective collaborative behaviours on project outcomes.

CentralPoint, 45 Beech Street, Barbican, London EC2Y 8AD . Email: . Phone: 0203 691 1530
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