Ask anyone in government or business and they will tell you: collaboration is key; it may be THE key. Few people in the world get to hole themselves away and dodge human interaction. Few people would want to do such a thing. Humans are meant for groups. We are meant to learn from each other and evolve together; to create the greatest ideas to solve the world’s biggest problems. Great things happen because of great teams who have learned to work together. Maybe it’s not rocket science, but the practice of it can sometimes be difficult, particularly when someone is leading such efforts. Collaboration is not tossing a loosely assembled group and making them sit in a room until they figure it out. It requires more direction, more intention, more introspection and better communication. In fact, some argue there are rules that must be followed.
Here are the rules as explained in an Inc. article, with concepts courtesy of Richard Watkins, of Let's Go, who has strived for years to crack the code on collaboration:
1. Find alignment
It is important to dive into the nitty gritty. This helps ensure everyone on the team knows why facing the challenge is important as well as the opportunities that will be created.
“It's about getting people aligned and excited as to why it's even worth the hassle of going after,” according to the article. Help the team understand what is at stake if you don’t put forth the effort. As the article notes, sometimes “the cost of inaction” can be a better motivator than the possible rewards.
2. Create Structure
Collaboration needs to be strategic. It needs structure in the form of clear leadership to direct the process and own the output.
“Without this foundation in place, collaboration is destined to fail,” according to the article. “Collaboration done right has tight parameters around scope, what resources are ready to be deployed and a clear understanding of who will drive the work forward after a solution is reached.”
An established plan more easily turns strategy into action. Having a plan will help the team better commit and contribute to a project.
3. Make it diverse
Forget politics and consider perspectives, according to the article. Who will help unlock the challenge and find the solution? Diverse minds working on a complex challenge will provide more insight. Perspectives from outside the organisation can prove particularly helpful.
4. Be active
There must be momentum behind the effort, an active mindset to quickly transition from strategy to action. This is about transparency with regard to progress, outlining how success will be measured and how teams will know when to alter course.
5. Be human
Collaboration needs tending. It demands patience, nurturing and proactive assessments. As Watkins notes in his book: humans accomplish the most in groups. Collaboration should be embraced, not feared. Cultivate the ‘soft skills’ required for collaborative meetings. These are the building blocks that make groups resilient and bolster the camaraderie and commitment necessary to get past significant challenges.
The rules make sense. Collaboration means human interaction and that means that we need to continually cultivate the soft skills that make it possible (and enjoyable) to work together. It means transparency and not bending to politics, creating tangible results from a strategic approach and navigating the challenges any organisation faces bravely, together. These rules are simple in concept but require continual self-improvement and group camaraderie to facilitate success. Embrace other perspectives, help each other out, find the rewards of doing a job well done and never stop improving: as an organisation and as a person.
David Barrick is an experienced public administrator within the Greater Toronto Region. For the past 16 years, he has been employed in numerous positions focused on both public and private-facing administration.Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.