I have been thinking a lot about collaboration lately. Writing whitepapers, facilitating scenario planning sessions and running workshops. We still have a lot to learn about working collaboratively. Working together just happens most of the time. We don’t think about designing how we work, we just make the assumption that people know how to work together. That usually leads to the realization that we do all know how to complain about other people’s collaborative deficiencies, but we don’t know how to effectively collaborate.
You can use the Management by Designmethodology to rethink how you collaborate. Here are five places to start:
- Ask people to describe how they work. Just listen. Don’t be critical. Set the expectation that they don’t have to be exhaustive or eloquent. But rather than starting off a new team with names and responsibilities, ask people to describe how they work, not what they do. Mind map or visually record the session. Look for synergies and discuss how to accommodate everyone’s style of work.
- Decide on where work takes place.What is the system of record. It doesn’t matter if it is the wall in a conference room or a workspace in a collaboration app. Agree on it and work consistently to put everything the team does in one place. Avoid e-mail as the answer to this question as it will exacerbate dysfunction rather than curtail it.
- Model the collaborative work.Don’t worry about methods and representations. Get down a sense of the things people will need to do together and brainstorm about how to accomplish those things before you are in the heat of getting them done.
- Take time to talk.I mean really talk. About what is working and what is not. Include a group reflection in every session. If you are truly collaborative, this may be a separate set of posts that focus what you need to do more of, less of, start doing, etc. If you are a team, you will likely have a leader who will facilitate this discussion. Regardless of your collaboration model, understanding each other and working through conceptual, physical and technological impediments is important.
- Examine your own collaborative behavior and be willing to change. If you want to work collaboratively, you need to be self-reflective about how well you listen, how you take input and how you provide feedback. Everyone can learn to be a better listener, a better receiver and a better giver, but you have to be open to seeing yourself and changing your behavior in order to learn and improve.
These are all proactive tasks that take you out of the mode of letting work happen to you and help you co-create your work experience. Most of them fall into the areas of practice, space and technology, so as you implement them in your day-to-day work, use the Management by Designmodifiers of simplicity, equability, forgiveness and flexibility to help you co-create the best work experience possible.
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