Cultivating better collaborators

When we're looking to increase the quantity and quality of collaborations within an enterprise, there are two dimensions that take time and grow slowly. I touched upon the first facet yesterday: "process maturity". How we work together evolves as we:
  • spend more time relating, listening, recognizing patterns and experimenting with ideas
  • come to better know each other's interests, motivations, beliefs and biases
  • realize what resources and value each brings to the collaboration
  • discover which ways of interacting bring out of the best in each other

The second "slow growth" dimension is the ability of each participant to collaborate. Whether we call this a skill set, aptitude, competency, trait or talent, it's something that can be cultivated. However, like plants in our gardens and on our window ledges, this ability can also be destroyed by taking the wrong approach. When we realize we can "kill the collaboration", we can catch ourselves neglecting or overdoing something, assuming incorrectly, or insisting in something that worsens the relationship. We improve our chances of success when we presume the collaboration takes its own time to improve.

These two facets can be mutually reinforcing. The more individuals bring to the collaboration, the better they will work together. The more mature the collaborative process becomes, the more the individuals will evolve their abilities to collaborate. The reverse is also true: the worse the process of collaboration, the worse the collaborators will become individually which will further deteriorate how they work together.

The way I am recommending here it realize the best of both facets is to:
  • regard both the ways of working together and the individual abilities as "slow growth" processes
  • render the potential pitfalls conscious and topics of mutual discussion
  • expect the two dimensions to feed each other for better or for worse
  • call timeouts to review how individuals and the collaboration are evolving

I'll return here next Monday. Happy Holidays everyone!


  1. There is one more piece that takes time in collaboration: syncing the various outside forces and stakeholder demands so their is an alignment in goals. Of course, authorities can just come in and tell the group what their goals are and what each person's piece is, but then they really aren't collaborating. Sometimes, getting the departments so they have a common image of work goals can be time consuming as a change in one department project can have an impact on other projects in the department. This ripple effect and the department's reaction make take time to identify.

  2. Thanks for the added thought. You've got me thinking more complexly also. Often collaborations are needed because the problem is not yet well defined, calls for non-routine solutions or something totally new. Then the development of the project will take lots of time before the collaborative work on it can begin.

    Hope the very wintry weather does not interfere with your plans!

  3. Actually, we missed the snow because it was too cold!