May 2018

Collaboration - Part II

Collaboration often seems like a simple and straightforward process, but in practice it is anything but. This month, particularly in light of all the chaos that is swirling around the international political stage currently, I wanted to continue my exploration of the fundamental aspects of collaboration.

There are four specific areas that must be consciously considered in order to help address issues around the collaborative process. These can be referred to as the 4 C's of Collaboration:

1. Common Goal
  • Do collaborators understand the shared objectives and their roles when they work as a group or on a team?
  • Is there a shared sense of purpose and alignment to the end goal?
2. Contributions
  • Are the talents and skills of everyone in the group leveraged?
  • Are roles and responsibilities that play to individual strengths assigned?
  • Are diverse points of view solicited and welcome?
  • How is feedback used to improve collaboration?
  • How are individual contributions and individuals' ability to work as a team assessed?
  • Is there psychological safety in the group?
3. Compromise–Consensus
  • Do collaborators know how to compromise and reach consensus?
  • Is the decision making process clear?
  • If no compromise or consensus is reached, who makes the ultimate decision?
4. Creative, Collaborative Culture
  • Do collaborators have opportunities to share constructive feedback?
  • Does the group have strategies to make sure everyone contributes- without some people dominating or others being left out?
  • Is there a culture of creative collaboration-an environment in which people respect one another's ideas and nurture creative expression?
  • How is conflict handled? Are disagreements handled respectfully and with candour?
Understanding and asking the questions above is a productive first step in the pursuit of building an effective and collaborative team or organisation (or government!). Do you or your organisation have a practical template to follow when a collaboration process is kicking off or when issues crop up along the way?

Ask Dr Tom

We now look at some of the challenges of collaboration with the following reader questions:

What are the barriers to collaboration? And how do we overcome them?

Dr Tom's thoughts:

There tends to be four distinct barriers to collaboration:

1. Distance – 'I don't see or hear you'

Greater distance between colleagues creates greater challenges in communication. Not just an over-reliance on e-mail when face-to-face conversations are needed, but a genuine "out of sight, out of mind' mindset that stops people from brainstorming, conversing or socializing.

2. Dominance – 'I'm on a different level than you'

There may exist a real or perceived hierarchy within the group culture that seems to value one group or individual over another.

3. Dissonance – 'I have different marching orders'

This happens when managers tell people they want everyone to collaborate; but at the same time, they assign tasks, targets and goals to individuals and teams with different agendas, which can range from complementary to conflicting.

4. Discomfort 'I don't really know you or understand what you do'

If I don't know you professionally or personally, and if I have no idea of how you do what you do, then my level of trust tends to be low so I'm less likely to collaborate comfortably with you.

Book Recommendation


The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognise and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues, Patrick M. Lencioni

Patrick M. Lencioni is commonly known for his pioneering work on group behaviours within teams in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. In his most recent book – The Ideal Team Player, Lencioni shifts his perspective and takes a closer look at the individuals within teams in order to explore what makes some individuals better team players than others.

The Ideal Team Player, presented in a compelling, narrative format, reveals the three indispensable virtues of an ideal team player – Humility, Hunger and People Smarts. The book provides a practical framework and actionable tools for identifying, hiring and developing this 'ideal team player' in any organisation. As we probably all know too well, finding good team members is no easy task; this book will help certainly point you in the right direction.

Newsletter References:
Natalie Nixon: “5 Reasons Why Collaboration Is Essential in Today's Business Environment', 2014
Ann Augustine: “Why People Need Collaboration - Reasons That May Help or Inhibit Us', 2016
Sebastien Boyer: “The Importance of Collaboration in the Workplace', 2017
Andrew Field: “6 Ways To Foster Collaboration In Your Workplace', 2012

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