Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Collaborative Meetings?

Zane Safrit's recent post on collaborative meetings fits in perfectly with the upcoming blog carnival theme of workplace collaboration - be sure to check it out! We've never had any pastry presentations here, but maybe it's time to start!

There are a lot of definitions for collaboration out there, including "
[the] act of cooperating traitorously with an enemy that is occupying your country " (not such a good one for the office) and the more apt: "a structured, recursive process where two or more people work together toward a common goal—typically an intellectual endeavor that is creative in nature—by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus."

So, basically, working together - effectively. Group projects in the office bring up many of the misgivings and questions that they did even in elementary school. Will one person end up doing all the work? How will credit be shared? What will we do with the slackers? How do we ensure that everyone's voice is heard, especially when offsite workers are involved? How (and when) do we set goals and determine success?

How do we collaborate effectively?

The right tools can make the job easier, like web conferencing, instant messaging, conference calls, and even plain old meetings, but a web conference session does not guarantee effective collaboration! Here are some things to think about when beginning a collaborative project:
  1. Why is this collaborative? Would it make more sense to work with a different structure?
  2. What will we gain from collaboration? Different viewpoints? A stronger team?
  3. Who will be included? Can we benefit from utilizing employees from different departments?
  4. Can we use an open, collaborative dialogue to improve our overall practices? Are we doing things redundantly? Wasting time or resources some other way?
  5. What happens if something goes wrong? To whom are concerns addressed?
  6. Is this a flat team (no leader), or is there a management structure?
  7. How much consensus is enough consensus? Do we need 100% agreement?
  8. How will knowledge be shared? Do team members already know and/or work well with each other?
Strong collaboration can really streamline processes throughout a company or other group. It can also build a stronger team by helping everyone feel clued-in to the big(ger) picture, rather than leaving employees who are lower on the totem pole to toil at assembly line-like tasks. However, there is a time and place for repetitive, even tedious work as well; not everything should be collaborative, not even every meeting. How could you implement collaborative strategies in your company - for meetings, projects, or other tasks?

No comments: