For the past few years collaborations have been quite the rage. People collaborate, departments in organizations collaborate, whole organizations collaborate, and community groups collaborate because
Two heads are smarter than one
Two groups have more energy than one
Big projects are easier if the risks are spread
The continuum from working alone to working together with others is worth exploring. To help you explore, use the following checklist to decide when and if you want to climb on the collaboration bandwagon.
1. I have a pretty complete description of my group or myself.
What are you comfortable with, uncomfortable with? What is your own culture? How do you like to do things and what do you like to do? Are you direct or indirect in communication? How do you work with deadlines? Do you see life as a problem to be solved or a mystery to be explored? I know my worst nightmare and best success regarding collaboration.
2. I have a pretty complete description of the one(s) I want to collaborate. (see above)
3. We have defined and agreed to the work we want to collaborate on. We know what success looks like.
Plan how your work will dovetail with other’s, whether or not you will work on the whole project together or just one aspect of it? Be aware that you both might finish at the same time or there might be a hand-off. Discuss with each other the feedback you hope to receive from the client or sponsor of the project and how to achieve it. Describe what you want the project to do and how you want to feel about it.
4. We have discussed the value of each person/group’s contribution to working together and it seems balanced.
Know who will take the lead and in what circumstances. Decide what you will do if the other is unable to perform. Don’t just say “we’ll work it out.” At least have some ideas about alternatives. Be able to identify what each party is contributing. Include contributions such as knowledge, power, and contacts
5. We have decided who gets what from the collaboration.
What is received can be psychic pay, hard goods, enhanced reputation, any element the parties wish to secure as a result of the collaboration Take time to spell out what is important to you, from credit for the job or money for the work
6. We have decided who owns which materials produced as a result of the collaboration.
Whether you produce a project, a book, a workshop or an opera, be clear about who owns all or part of it, and what circumstances require compensation or credit by the other.
7. We have a plan to resolve differences.
Most conflict is the result of misunderstanding, not disagreement. Be sure your partner(s) will sit with you and discuss thoughts and feelings. Examine whether your differences are over goals, methods to achieve them, values, beliefs, resources, or facts. Identify the source of the difference and decide if you can work it out through talking (usually the best solution for misunderstanding). If it’s a real disagreement, identify a mutually trusted person to act as a mediator and help with deciding what should be done to either move the project forward or abandon it.
8. We will spend as much time on how we are working together as what we are doing.
It is easier and lest costly in terms of time, energy and stress to keep the relationship well maintained than to fix it after a misunderstanding or hostile disagreement. Even when you are too busy, take time to talk with each other about what’s happening with the collaboration, what is working well and what isn’t. Sometimes all that’s needed is to let off a little steam. Other times, problem solving is required.
9. We have told each other what assumptions we have about collaborating, what assumptions we have about each other.
Whatever you think is “normal” is probably just how your family did things. Other families do things differently and this is what makes some people think others don’t have common sense. It was only common in your family. Make your assumptions explicit. Agree on how you will handle things like the other being unavailable due to illness, work or family situations.
10. We agree to offer our best to each other, including feedback. Make a written document which notes the items above.
This gives you permission to talk to the other about the project and how you are working with it. The discussion helps clarify expectations, making it less likely that you will accidentally step on toes or alienate the other. Clarity in these areas is a good thing…it is far better to be wrong than confused.
Know: me, you, work, value, receive, ownership, conflict, relationship, assumptions, feedback
© Lunell Haught, PhD, CMC