At some point in time, you or your manager will be asked to collaborate with others. It might be someone in another department, it might be someone with another organization entirely. Whatever collaboration opportunity is presented to you, it’s probably in your best interest to make sure it goes successfully.
I recently read an article that talked about how the three important ingredients of a successful collaboration are practice, process and potential. Practice, in that there are common human practices of collaboration in play, like letting friction bring you to new heights and ideas. Process, in that the group commits to a process and sticks with it. Potential, in that you have a group of people that can actually achieve the goal set in front of them.
This is true, but that’s a 30,000-foot view of what collaboration is all about. Let’s take a look at each of these three elements and all of the components that make them up.
Collaboration is work, work, work, and the group will be successful if everyone is playing by the same rules. Some of them are individual, like:
Agreeing to respect individual opinions and assume positive intentions – Trust that everyone is working for the common good of the group until proven otherwise.
Agreeing to keep communication open and frequent – Everyone should know what everyone else is doing, and with today’s communication tools, there’s no excuse for communication surprises. Use your company’s intranet to communicate on exclusive, confidential pages, or employ a tool like Yammer to share thoughts, ideas, and atta-boys within the organization or with others from other companies.
Channel any conflicts toward new discoveries and better work – So much easier said than done! All I can say is, look at the source of conflict, and don’t accept compromise. Resolution is more powerful and sticks better. Getting to resolution will likely pay off well.
Agree that you’ll give 110% toward overcoming roadblocks – And hold your fellow collaborators to it! Everyone needs to pull their weight when the going gets tough, and too often ill will starts where the road block is encountered and only some of the people in the group care to get past it.
Dial down the competition – The achievement of the group outweighs the achievement of the individual in most cases, so group members should be warned that this collaboration is not about outdoing each other but about arriving at a goal for the common good.
Beyond the individual aspects of the collaboration, as a group you’ll need to decide what kind of collaboration is in order. Depending on your final goal, the group should determine what’s the best collaboration approach to get the job done. There’s a variety of different opinions on what types of collaborations are out there. These are a few that I pondered and found to be valuable:
Open collaboration – This is where you have a team of people that are out to achieve a common goal. You have a specific question that needs to be answered, and a reasonable amount of control over the final results. The team doesn’t necessarily all have to work for your company, and the goal isn’t something like curing world hunger or coming up with a cure for the Ebola virus. It’s often an idea-generating group, and includes people from all different disciplines.
Vertical collaboration – This is a collaboration where the end result is to influence others to act. A business might employ a vertical collaboration that includes suppliers and customers. It’s vertical, from top to bottom of the product life. You can also use this type of collaboration within the organization at the lower levels, with a group of contributors reporting to a higher-level individual or team.
Horizontal/Lateral collaboration – This is a collaboration between groups of people who share a common challenge and need to make a system shift. Similarly, it can be a collaboration between people at the higher levels of an organization, who can pull levers to shift behavior and process.
“Practice” allows you to get your people together and decide on the rules by which you will interact. In our next installment, we’ll talk a little bit about “Process” and “Potential.” Collaboration is an important tool in business, and knowing how you and your manager can do it well will make you both even more successful!
Next Post: Wednesday, February 18