Over the past few years I’ve heard many people grapple with the same issues about utilizing collaboration in our organization – they take too long, I don’t know who should be in them, what the what is the process, and I’m uncertain about when I should collaborate or just do it myself. I’ve been right there with them since over that time I’ve been in good collaborations, bad ones, and unnecessary ones. I’ve been left out of some I thought I should be in, and I’ve left people out of them when they should have been in. I have spent a lot of time learning about it, and have been in countless dialogues and debates about how, when, and why we utilize the process.
The following is a snapshot of collaboration at Vestalia today, drawn from my observations and experiences. This picture will and should change! We will all grow as individuals and together as an organization; from that growth we will learn more about collaboration as we try, fail, and succeed with it. What do you want to add to the conversation?
by Becky Lemon, 5/15/19
Do all collaborations have to include a long series of endless meetings?
Nope. Collaborations can take as much or as little time as you need them to. They’re often proportionate to the size of the situation.
- Gathering a group of people to create and execute a new cocktail program? Lots of meetings.
- Gathering a few cooks to decide where to put a new ingredient on the line? Probably a single, five-minute conversation.
How do you decide who to collaborate with?
Participation in collaboration is earned, everyone doesn’t get an automatic invitation into it because they have an opinion about the situation or it impacts them somehow. You and your team could come up with your own criteria for who could get in on collaborating. Once you have your core criteria, you can fine-tune it based on the conditions of the thing you’re collaborating about. At the very least, consider using what Vestalia has operated with for years: we invite individuals into collaboration when they meet the following guidelines:
- They have relevant experience
- They have appropriate qualifications
- They can commit to the process of collaboration, including the amount of time it will take to be in it
If you follow your criteria and it still feels like you’ve left out a few key voices, reach out to those individuals and talk about the decision. Invite their feedback and point of view, find mutual understanding about why things are the way they are, and get alignment on what you’ll need from each other moving forward to maintain well-being and commitment.
Is there a specific process to follow when collaborating that makes it effective and satisfying?
Yeah, there are a bunch of them. If you’re staring down a big initiative you may want to check out a comprehensive project management process (some of our teams have been trying out “Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager“). Any way you slice it, successful collaboration has to do with good old-fashioned planning, accountability, and clear communication. If you currently don’t have a great process and need a place to start, or you’re looking to try something new, here’s a brief breakdown of the steps we take at Vestalia when we’re in creative conversations:
Gather your group. Get aligned on your purpose (why are we a team, what are we here to do?) and your end results (what exactly are we trying to create or achieve?). Then start talking.
Everyone gives their perspective on it until you all share understanding of where you are
- Brainstorm where you want to be – what would this look like if it were totally awesome?
- Commit to a destination that fulfills your goals, supports your values, and you have the resources to achieve
- Figure out when and how you’re going to get there, and who is on the journey
- Implement your plan, stay in it together and hold one another accountable to it
Take time to reflect on where you’re at now, start over if you decide there is more to be done to make it satisfying and effective
Here’s a tip: you’ll get the best results out of those six steps if you all are able to say the thing that needs to be said. When people feel safe to share viewpoints that may conflict with someone else’s and seek to understand one another, your group benefits from working with a better set of information. If people are able to contribute wildly outside-of-the-box ideas without fear of being judged, you’ll all dream up more unique, creative futures.
A task or project has landed on my plate, how do I know if I should collaborate with others to get it done or do it myself?
Listening to your instincts is a good idea – before you act on them take a step back to reflect on the whole picture and dig around for other possibilities for action. Deciding from that place gets the best results. Not sure how to do that? Get inspiration from this handy worksheet! (Want to print it out? Click on it from the gallery).