Three Ways to Save Time with Collaboration
There is an unbelievably huge quantity of information about the ways that online collaboration saves you time – just Google ‘ways online collaboration saves time’ to see what I am talking about here. My original idea for this blog was to compare and contrast online versus offline collaboration with the bias that offline collaboration is somehow better. This is such an old-fashioned idea! Just like my old-fashioned hair which I have worn the same way now for about 20 years! The point is not online versus offline – the point is collaboration that is worthwhile regardless of how it takes place.
Everyone knows that multi-person collaboration takes an investment of time – gathering people up in an online platform or in a physical setting, developing the agenda or topic, designing how to facilitate the collaboration, and participating in the collaboration. People are willing to invest the up-front time in collaboration because they believe the desired result will come faster and benefit more people than tackling the topic alone. The questions are: do you have a topic worthy of investing your time upfront and do you have a topic worthy of other people investing their time to collaborate with you? If you do, then you had better make sure you go about the collaboration in the right way especially if the collaboration is in support of your organization and also if you plan to get any of the people you plan to collaborate with to collaborate with you again at any point in the future.
Thinking about my most rewarding collaboration experiences, there are three things that these experiences had in common that made them uncommon. First, there was passion in the form of full engagement of all participants in an environment of trust, openness, and creativity. Second, the collaboration was characterized by well-run meetings that had clear objectives and an easy-to-follow agenda to accomplish challenging but worthwhile goals set out in the beginning of the collaboration and over the long term. And, third, the collaboration led to important outcomes because the people engaged had the initiative and interest to follow-up and bring to fruition the results of the collaboration. In summary, my most rewarding collaboration experiences had the right climate, the right process, and the right people. Let’s look at how the right climate, the right process, and the right people can save time through collaboration.
Let’s start with a definition of climate. A good place to start is the distinction that Scott G. Isaksen and Hans J. Akkermans make between climate and culture in ‘An Introduction to Climate.’ Scott and Hans say ‘We use the term climate to mean the prevailing environment or atmosphere within a group or organization. Climate is defined by the typical patterns of behavior that characterize life in the organization. Climate is about what people in an organization experience on a day-to-day basis.’ Scott and Hans go on to illustrate the concepts of culture and climate as a tree with the characteristics of culture (e.g., traditions, beliefs, values, history, customs) as the roots below ground and the characteristics of climate (e.g., challenge, idea-time, freedom, idea-support, playfulness, debate, conflict, openness, risk-taking) as the branches above ground (see the image reproduced with permission from the Creative Problem Solving Group Inc. below). It is often the ‘soft stuff’ or the emotional dimensions of a group experience as characterized by the climate that will determine if the group experience will result in high performance or not (see https://fulcrumconnection.com/blog/soft-stuff-hard-stuff-collaboratin/). The climate needed to produce both a rewarding and results-focused experience feels like participants engaging authentically with others, seeking contribution that makes a meaningful difference, and being open to change and opportunity (see https://fulcrumconnection.com/blog/values-tree-collaboration/).
An example of the importance of the right climate to collaboration is CPSB’s work with Datex-Ohmeda Inc, now GE Healthcare (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08OmVkJ2x5A). The company changed their climate to be more conducive to creativity and innovation which enabled them to partner with customers for double-digit growth in the two years following the work with CPSB. President Lori Cross explains that the company needed to re-ignite their product innovation efforts after intense focus on operational performance. The company worked with CPSB to assess their climate and identify actions to address shortcomings using the Situational Outlook Questionnaire.
In order to have a rewarding and results-focused collaboration, you need to have right group process and supporting content (see https://fulcrumconnection.com/blog/values-tree-collaboration/). Specifically, Certified Professional Facilitators (see http://www.iaf-world.org/index/certification/OurCPFs.aspx) are proficient at demonstrating the following competencies in order to deliver the right process for a given collaboration: create appropriate designs to achieve intended outcomes, develop the event plan, deliver the event successfully, select clear methods and processes that achieve a high quality product/outcome that meets the client’s needs, prepare time and space to support groups processes, apply a variety of participatory processes, guide the group to consensus and desired outcomes, facilitate group self-awareness about its task, establish clear context for the session, and manage small and large group process.
An example of the importance of the right process to collaboration is Michael Wilkinson’s approach to facilitating strategy which is based on what he calls the Drivers Model (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3g0WPhwOsY). The Drivers Model includes the following three parts: a situation assessment which includes a briefing document and management briefing, strategy sessions which produce the strategic plan, and implementation which includes the communication and monitoring plans. The Drivers Model is based on many years of experience helping a wide range of organizations develop and successfully implement strategies that exceeded expectations.
The right people in collaboration means you have the right players for the important roles needed (see https://fulcrumconnection.com/blog/collaboration-requires-focus-commitment-needed-make-perfect-harmony/). For example, the basis of an effective collaboration is setting the context and sharing focused content needed for the group to achieve the required outcomes for the collaboration. Thus you need content and context providers for the topic of interest. In addition, participants need to bring a diversity of perspectives and represent key stakeholders in order to achieve the required outcomes from the collaboration.
An example of the importance of the right people in collaboration can be found from Agile methodology. Agile methodology is typically used in software development to help businesses better manage the uncertainty associated with business systems (http://agilemethodology.org/). The Agile method to identify stakeholders (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJgxqZzz5dc) begins with the project sponsor who has the money to fund the project, a vision of what the project needs to accomplish, and the political clout in the organization to navigate barriers to the project. The Agile project leader works with the project sponsor to identify the people needed to help create the solution. In addition, the end-users who will use the solution, both internal and external, are identified to define the user requirements. Finally are the special interest groups or SIGs who have jurisdiction over something that will need to change in order for the solution that is being defined to work. The SIGs identify the restraining requirements for the project.
An example of all three ways to save time with collaboration is the inaugural Sustainability Thinking Education Program (STEP) Practitioner workshop created by Fulcrum’s founder. Fulcrum’s founder vetted the STEP concept with the Corporate Sustainability Community Council (CSCC) that she founded and facilitated at a Fortune 500 corporation. An RFP was issued to identify the content partners for STEP which included Chris Laszlo from Sustainable Value Partners, Andrew Winston from Eco-Strategies, and Bill Shephard from Creative Problem Solving Inc. (CPSB). In order to identify the right people for the workshop, the desired characteristics were defined with the CSCC who then nominated participants for the workshop. The workshop targeted employees who were most likely to lead a sustainability initiative at the company. To insure the right climate for the workshop, the content presented included both sustainability thinking concepts and creativity thinking concepts. Bill Shephard not only presented the creativity thinking concepts but helped facilitate a climate conducive to creativity in keeping with the Situational Outlook Questionnaire (see http://www.cpsb.com/assessments/soq). Finally, to insure the right process, the creative problem solving approach was used (see http://www.cpsb.com/research/articles/creative-problem-solving/Celebrating-50-Years-of-Creative-Problem-Solving.html) for participants to generate ideas for sustainability initiatives and a template was provided for participants to flesh out the ideas for presentation to company management. One of the sustainability initiatives identified in the workshop moved faster than any other project the STEP attendee had worked on in his 20-year career. Within 8 months, the STEP participant had implemented a program to sell vitamin waste as enrichment to animal feed which had diverted over 200 tons of vitamin waste from disposal to consumption and had generated a financial impact of over $40,000.
People invest time in collaboration because they understand that collaborating in the right ways will save time that far outweighs the time invested. If you would like to learn more about the right ways to collaborate for your own professional growth or to help your organization address its toughest challenges, contact Valerie Patrick at Fulcrum Connection LLC (412-742-9675 or email@example.com).