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"Collaboration" attracts many definitions, but the one I use in my work is:
"People working with other people towards a common outcome."
It's not a perfect definition, but it's enough to start a conversation.
Explore my work on The Practice of Collaboration.
Collaboration in Practice
- The heart of collaboration. Being open to the ideas of others, and being willing to explore and act upon them.
- Responsiveness is important too. How quickly and fully you come back to your team members impacts on collaboration willingness.
- Four habits of the collaborative individual. E.g., Habit 1 - Know when you need to talk interactively; do not always rely on email.
- Become a collaborative individual. Skills: take personal responsibility for communication effectiveness, build relationships, and know whether you can work at a distance from others.
- Reducing travel may not actually happen. The more we email and work with others remotely, the more we want to meet with them.
- Do what you said you will do. Execute on the tasks you have a agreed to do - other team members will be planning their work around your commitments.
Designing for Effective Collaboration
- Design highly-effective short duration groups. Include some people who have worked together before, and others who have not. Mix it up a little, and get maximum benefits.
- What pulls a virtual team together? Their shared vision to achieve the desired outcome.
- Remote work full-time has various downsides. There are affordances of an office and benefits from seeing colleagues regularly.
- Informal communication is a key to high performing virtual teams. Team members need the ability to communicate on matters beyond just their shared projects.
- Virtual team members need to agree how to work together. Cognitive alignment is required before task alignment can be achieved.
- Share the difficult realities of virtual teams. Such as who gets up at 2am for the teleconference.
- Be mindful of peoples' different backgrounds. These will have an effect on performance, especially if they are ignored.
- Virtual work has to be coordinated, and that takes time. This is especially true for groups that haven't worked together before.
- A facilitator can make a big difference. He or she can notice things about virtual team dynamics that team members can no longer see.
- Trust between team members is critical to getting anything done. How do you build trust when you can't see the people you are working with?
Approaches to Collaboration at Firms
- Molson Coors Brewing Company. Improving collaboration by focusing on developing a cohesive corporate culture.
- An unnamed organization in New Zealand. Four strikes against "collaboration" ever working - mistrust, dictator-style leadership, no communication, and organizational fear.
- Keep the sponsors and stakeholders informed about what's going on. But target your communication to each sponsor or stakeholder group.
When the Technology Muddles with Practice
- Risks in early-stage collaboration. People often need time to formulate their own thoughts before seeing what others are saying.