Do I Know You, Can We Collaborate?

By | December 15, 2009

What is collaboration? How would you define it?

A simple definition that works for me is: Collaboration – one or more people working together to accomplish a goal.

We almost always accomplish our goals by working with others. Teams working int he same location will find it relatively easy to accomplish a common goal. I would guess that many of you routinely work with others that reside in other locations. You are as likely to work with someone in another country as you are with someone in the same office.

How does this impact your ability to accomplish your goals? What challenges do you face?

I’ve worked with some wonderful teams in my career. Some of those teams had an ability to deliver a mind numbing amount of value. Those teams had gelled into a high performing group. (Timothy Lister and Tom DeMarco talk about this gelling of teams in their book Peopleware.) Personal connection is an important element. Working together in the same location increases the odds that personal connections develop. There is more to the creation of high performing teams but personal connections are an important ingredient. How much more difficult is it for us to create those connections with distributed teams?

Collaboration capabilities provide tools to help teams accomplish goals and they should also provide capabilities to increase personal connections. This is the social side of collaboration which is often looked upon with suspicion in most companies. It is easy to justify investment to provide capabilities to allow teams to collaborate on materials and manage projects. Little effort is put into creating capabilities that help teams build personal connections.

People working together deliver value. People that are able to build personal connections are much more likely to gel into a high performing team. Social networking capabilities can help bring about those connections but they must be handled with care. They must be used to build the right connections. Measurements to gauge team effectiveness must be put in place. These measurements are designed to show value and how a team is able to provide value. It may be of interest to track how many times a person micro-blogged, or used a wiki, or commented on a blog post but that doesn’t provide an indicator of value.

Social tools can help create deeper connections across a team. Greater personal connection will remove barriers to collaboration which increases alignment across the team and greater focus on accomplishing the vision and providing value.

I would love to hear more about how you are using social tools to help increase team effectiveness. Feel free to join the conversation by commenting.

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