Innovate to Grow – Collaboration fuels innovation
I love the article put out by the World Economic Forum in January of 2023. It highlights how collaboration has replaced competition as the way for organizations to fuel growth in the future. I think that’s also true on a smaller scale for our projects and teams. We need to learn to collaborate to keep pace with change and thrive in the digital economy. Just as businesses need to use collaboration to assemble the right pieces to solve business problems and meet customer expectations, so too do project teams which are basically doing the same thing on a different scale.
Hard skills or soft skills?
I think collaboration has a combination of both. It has soft skills around:
If also has hard skills around:
These should actually be called hard hard skills as to learn and perform in project teams and as individuals these aren’t easy to do! They sound simple and may not be difficult to learn as an individual however bringing these together and being effective as a team is complex, difficult and needs to have the right infrastructure in place to set up and nurture them effectively.
Who’s doing what by when and who knows?
While reliability and accountability sounds simple – just do what you say you will do – in actual practice in our high tech environments this isn’t easy. Do we have a clear and complete understanding of what we’re doing – if we did we wouldn’t have Agile? Do we have the time to work on our tasks – with an overload of notifications, meetings and messages, who actually has time to do work?
For project teams to execute on time and own their scope this takes:
- True understanding of the project scope – with the ability to influence and understand what you are responsible for as well as those around you,
- Collaborative planning – co-creating the project plan to ensure that the effort and elapsed time are achievable,
- Effective communication – ensuring that we utilize asynchronous and other methods so our time isn’t consumed in meetings,
- Project tracking, collaborative problem solving and timely decision making when issues arise.
Getting Creative takes some structure
Harnessing the knowledge and expertise of the project team is key to ensure that we solve issues creatively and continuously improve our project initiation, planning and execution. Having brainstorming sessions is not effective – it only scratches the surface of truly using the creativity of the team. We want to also set up spaces and apply techniques such as
- Root Cause Analysis
- PICK charts to assess alternatives
- Retrospectives that solicit anonymous inputs to get honest feedback
Being Flexible isn’t just Agile
Agile is a great methodology to deal with ambiguity when delivering a project, however being flexible also means that our teams need to have the skills to be flexible and the processes to respond to change. Key techniques include:
Project culture being established and sustained throughout a project by setting up team charters and periodic retrospective focused on culture.
Collaborative decision practices and communication that ensure everyone has input to the decision made and is fully aware not only of the decision but the reasons why and next steps.
3 things that don’t work anymore
The old factory mentality of input process output in a linear fashion just doesn’t work anymore to accomplish the work we need to get done. It particularly doesn’t incorporate being creative and flexible. Also, we have a TON of systems that support linear methods of work, particularly rigid task management systems. These do very little to help people be creative or flexible. Also, they reinforce an ethos of micromanagement. To break free from these constraints and to improve collaboration project teams need to:
- Improve accountability and reliability by using their own individualized work methods and finding ways to report and communicate task status to ensure the next person knows when their work can begin or is anticipated.
- Increase creativity by engaging project teams in collaborative practices. Everything from brainstory, to decision making as well as co-creating.
- Flexibility will increase when teams aren’t stuck in rigid detailed tasks and keep a line of sight to the broader outcomes and are self directed in their contributions to achieve those results.
Want to explore more collaboration techniques?
If you can harness these hard skills and project team practices you’ll have the basics in place to really apply your creativity to nurturing the soft skills required of good collaborators!