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Manage   »   Coaching   »   Collaboration

Collaboration is the process whereby people work together and cooperate to achieve a joint, combined objective. Now we all know, from experience, people working together will almost always generate more efficient results than that achieved by individuals working separately. This is why we use teams. But the team must be a team, a collaborative whole or working as a unit. This takes work and organisation and time and money, it does not come for free or overnight.

It takes planning to understand and confirm that we have secured and combined suitable people with the right skills in the most appropriate environment at the correct time for the most fitting project. Confirmation of this is a starting point for your project collaboration.

The next stage is to get the people working together, to value each others experience and to respect their views and opinions. Stage three is a little more of a challenge and this is to get team members and subgroups within your teams to trust each other. Respect and trust are precepts of agile principles and agile practice.

You will seek to achieve this. Working with a team without a shared trust, trying to achieve challenging targets will lead to disorder and subversion. A team that has separated and teamed up into organisational or other dissected boundaries is not a team that will work collaboratively. This division can transpire very easily in geographically outsourced scenarios and requires a keen eye to spot it early as well as sound management to plan and avoid it.

There are techniques we use to build project collaboration and we present them within the Toolkit in no specific order. These are qualities you want in yourself and in team members:

  • Be loyal: this is your team, demonstrate to them that this is your only team.
  • Be genuine: make your intentions real, transparent and obvious for all to see.
  • Be reliable: do what you said and when you said you would do it. Maintain integrity.
  • Be a talker: communicate well and often to as many people as you can.
  • Be a deliverer: under promise & over deliver, to bolster confidence in your abilities
  • Be honest: trustworthy and truthful rather than confidential and false.
  • Be a servant: readiness to offer benevolence and kindness in times of need.
  • Be a decision maker: avoid procrastination and unnecessary lengthy debate. Choose.
  • Be a learner: welcome new ideas and encourage learning.
  • Be a listener: welcome comments and criticism then take time to pay attention.

If you can engender these qualities in yourself, and then the members of your team, you will begin the process to build trust across your team and across the project. Once the various individuals and subgroups within your project gain a measure of trust for each other, this will reduce anxieties and stresses of individuals as well as the doubts and fears of the subgroups.

The trust of the group relies on the openness of individuals whilst uncommunicativeness, a very large and difficult word, causes a very large and difficult problem for the collective delivery of the group. The harbouring of secret information by team members allows them the opportunity to disturb the progress of the project or to introduce disarray. This may be done for personal or wider political ambitions or objectives. This is, of course, detrimental and counter-productive to the success of the project.

This is a very difficult problem to identify because, by its very nature, it is secretive. However the Toolkit uses the Daily Forum to counter this problem. Stakeholders attend the meeting and are asked individually what they have worked on, are now working on and are asked to offer details of any potential risks. It is incumbent upon every member of the team to identify risks and to share them at the Daily Forum. Members who fail to offer or comment on any risks whatsoever are either not thinking deeply enough about their role and the project or may be seeking to harbour risks for their next rebellious revelation.

Experienced team members have responsibility for their area and it is incumbent upon them to identify the risks that are likely to bear in their specific areas. We have found through project experience it is, really rather surprisingly, more senior experience project personnel who seek to withhold secret information about potential risks, often within their own area. This could be explained in a number of ways. Maybe their past experience with projects has been unproductive, personally. Sometimes we see that peers or management have badly judged or criticised their project work in the past or they have wrongly been passed the blame for others failure. Whatever the reason it is wise to be aware of the possibility of hidden resistance and counter it with care, resilience and speed. Countering opposition to collaboration is needed sometimes but promoting collaboration pays dividends always.

There are widespread examples of wide and even global collaboration helping business. One example is the Canadian mining company Goldcorp, which was going through some financial challenges and struggling to find gold on its land in Ontario. When a new chief executive was hired they put the geological data for the Ontario location online, sanctioning the help of the online community and promoting their involvement with half a million dollars in prize money for successfully accurate suggestions. The company received proposals from across the world eventually unearthing $3bn of gold on its property and becoming one of Canadas biggest mining companies. So, it does pay to promote collaboration and change within your organisation.


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