Collaboration is no soft toss!

Many people have the idea of the lone innovator or the lone programmer developing solutions based on the wits to the adulation of the business deeply embedded in their subconscious.  These lone wolves don’t collaborate. The picture is wrong. Today’s business environment is fundamentally different. Teams and teams of teams are the problem-solving technique de jour.  Collaboration is an important part of solving business problems in teams. Because collaboration is so important, it is important to consider whether planned meetings, events, and interactions are set up to be collaborative before they occur.  Jonas Bull suggested a modification to the collaboration filter we have been using to evaluate whether an event is collaborative posthumously. Jonas’s suggestions (melded with Stephen Adam’s suggestions) follow below:

  1. Is there a common goal?
    1. Is the team aware of it?
  2. Is the interaction necessary to create the desired outcome?
  3. Does shared ownership of outcome make sense?
  4. Would bi-directional communication improve productivity in quality or quantity (even if not strictly necessary)?

Jonas’ changes push the question set into more of a present/future perspective, which lets a leader evaluate whether any group session is supposed to be collaborative. 

A great addition to the list is the criteria that the team (or the collaborators) must be aware of the common goal. I recently attended a Meet-Up featuring Craig Larman.  The discussion was on LeSS (Large Scale Scrum). However, one of the broader takeaways was the idea that all change needs to be focused on moving the organization toward an optimizing goal. Without awareness of the common goal, the probability of any activity effectivity delivering value is low.  In a collaborative scenario, the lack of a common goal can lead team members going in different directions (chaos).

In the end, a tool to posthumously evaluate whether an event is collaborative helps to build self-awareness so that the tool can then be applied as a pre-event filter.  Knowing that an event isn’t going to be or doesn’t need to be collaborative gives a leader the opportunity to determine whether to refine the event or to use a different mode of delivery.

Notes for the future:

There are several collaboration topics that we have not addressed that are of interest such as whether collaboration is possible if everyone involved isn’t aware they are collaborating, what is the relationship between structure and collaboration (Conway’s Law) or can collaboration be mandated. We will come back to these ideas later in the year.