In the world of music, C major is synonymous with simplicity and it is commonly considered that C major is the best key for beginners. No matter how much we discuss collaboration, it always raises questions that are really basic. This week ROADMENDER’S focus will be on a few elementary things that should be made clear to anyone entering into a collaboration project. So, what is the C major of collaboration?
I think few would disagree that collaboration requires a willingness by all parties to be trusting and prepared to co-operate to the best of their ability. Those two and a few other factors are a given. The other basics to focus on include a range of features of the following small selection:
All parties need to understand that collaboration can only happen when there is sound agreement. As obvious as it may sound, I am surprised how often people skip over this and do not pay proper attention and detail to the agreement. And when it comes to the fine print, so to speak, it is normal to feel nervous but this little step will eliminate a host of other issues that often tend to rise later. Your agreement should be clear, but not necessarily a lengthy legal document. Remember, it is clarity that you are after. People need to feel comfortable about their capacities to contribute. Agreeing up front on how much time, information and effort can be realistically expected is the key to a good agreement.
A cooling off period
As in any transaction, we should be mindful of the importance of allowing partners to sit down and go over the project calmly, over a period of a week or two, to ensure that the initial enthusiasm (which is very common when collaboration is brought into the mix) is not overcooked. There’s nothing worse, after making initial progress, than realising that your collaborating partner is overcommitted without being given an opportunity to adjust to the new conditions that collaboration often imposes on people’s time and effort. Beware of the ‘strike while the iron’s hot’ mantra when it applies to collaboration. Slow and steady is much safer.
Risk analysis up front
Unless you are a risk management junkie, you are more likely to belong to the majority of people who, while understanding that managing risk is important, hope that it will be someone else’s job. Outsourcing risk management is a big mistake! Risk management should be one of the key focus areas for the collaborating group (especially when the collaboration is between external parties). Collaboration is disruptive, and thus more likely to induce risk that is not normally observed in an internally structured organisation. Therefore, thinking about risk management in the context of collaboration is both vital and exciting because it requires more creative thinking. Another reason to be serious about it up front is to glean insights into each partners’ capacity and approach, and make them work better.
The importance of low-high context
Those who specialise in communication would be familiar with the concept of a low vs high context culture. The idea, developed by an anthropologist Edward Hall, is that low context culture is where people are required to communicate more explicitly and directly because they do not know each other well etc. On the other hand, high context culture allows people to communicate with implicit language, non-verbal cues etc. In other words there is a rich background in the group that allows people to signal messages to each other more effectively and transfer meaning faster. We all experience moving from low to high culture in our daily lives. The importance of this is that collaboration often starts in a low context culture and progressively develops into high context. It is important to be aware of this and also actively work towards developing a high context as it offers more efficiency in collaboration.
Strategy as a driving force
Last but not least, a strategy has to be the driving force behind the collaboration. Undoubtedly, at least that is what I have found to date, this is the part that is often not given proper attention. In fact many people collaborate and never really sit down to work out a proper collaboration strategy. Ultimately this is about a business strategy with collaboration as its core. There must be a strategy in place. How nuanced that strategy needs to be is a matter for the collaborating partners.