Collaboration Challenges and Solutions
Creating a collaborative environment depends upon a number of factors. Peter Senge and a group of researchers identified a number of them that can bolster or degrade effective collaborative learning in interorganizational groups.
During a session at NTEN's 2008 Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), we used these factors to create a framework for identifying solutions to the challenge of making an organization more collaborative. Session participants created a catalog of solutions related to each factor. To contribute your own solutions, you can login and edit this page.
Create an environment where participants feel that they can safely express their perspective.
- Start conversation with jumping off documentation based on past project successes/failures.
- Have a point person gather data and aggregate. Put framework around discussion.
- Create a strategy council to coordinate overlapping needs/requirements.
- Find a management-level champion to assure collaboration, but avoid mandating particular approach.
- Catalog work to be done to achieve goal(s).
- Negotiate project schedules, and priorities face to face, if possible.
- Work to make meetings purposeful to maintain faith in discussion as a tool.
- When making cross-team decisions, corral diffuse decisions and explicit disagreements by assuring that there is a trigger-puller and final decision-maker.
Align Vision and Values
Emphasize commonality and common cause among participants.
- Set high level organizational priorities
- Communicate goals of each project to teams as they form
- Avoid shapeless meetings, which can be a lost opportunity to align vision and values across teams. Encourage clear agendas and outcomes.
Develop Relational Quality
Facilitate Relationship Building
- Give others opportunity to contribute beyond their normal scope (Get IT's perspective on how to use the tools strategically).
- Sponsor social activities that encourage teams to get to know each other
- Ice-breaker activities for team meetings
- Schedule annual and bi-annual retreats to focus on team-building.
- Schedule team calls on a regular (rather than emergency ad hoc basis).
Offer Organizational, Professional, Personal Value
- Explicitly communicate professional/organizational/personal benefits to participants/groups
- Create incentives that energize individuals/groups who participate
- Be successful and communicate the successes of the team to model what’s possible for the whole team, the whole organization and especially the more collaboration-resistant team members.