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Project Collaboration Done Right

September 17, 2014

Project Collaboration Done Right

We’ve all experienced moments of genuine satisfaction. As the A Team’s Hannibal Smith was wont to say, we love it “when a plan comes together.” When all the thousands of moving parts click together, and the plan you set out to achieve together happens — it feels like magic. You feel proud of what you’ve accomplished. That you’ve made something important happen and changed things for the better.

I wonder. Did it happen “magically”? Magic implies “it” just happened. That “it” was easy or simple.

But you and I both know that nothing could be further than the truth. It took a heck of a lot of work, by a lot of people. It was complicated, not simple. We worked together, even tirelessly at times, to achieve something bigger than any one of us could do on our own. Our efforts turned 1 + 1 + 1 into 1,111,111, not 3.

Still, there’s a part of us which feels that “magic” when it all comes together as we imagined at the start.

Magic = Collaboration

The “magic” was collaboration. Collaboration, when done well, achieves amazing things — like putting a man on the moon, or establishing a new country from a group of 13 young colonial states on a new continent.

What are the ingredients that make collaborations magical? Here’s what our experience at Samepage tells us:

Have a Big Why Inside and a Plan to Support It

You’ve been given a project. You know where you’re headed. But unless you all have acollective bigger purpose for doing it, you won’t have a high performing team. Once you’re clear about that, then you need a plan to get there. Otherwise how the heck will you know when you’ve arrived? With that said, don’t over plan either. You can’t predict everything. And you also don’t want to be so rigid that you can’t adapt and adjust to changing conditions.

Identify Your Team

Who do you need on your team? Don’t look for a clone of yourself. Don’t seek out only the people with whom you get along well. Nor should you only have “experts” on your team. Research shows that the more diverse your team, the more effective it will be. The mistake many people make is to load the team with content experts. Their expertise often blinds them to finding new solutions.

Make Core Agreements

Once you’ve got your team, you need to figure out who’s going to do what. What are the core values that will guide your decisions? For instance, you may want to agree that you’re there to solve problems, not argue. How will you resolve disagreements? How and when will you communicate? With whom whom and why?

Get the Tools You Need

Every team needs to be able to share information and resources. You’ll need tools to help you do that, and more. Of special importance is the need for a global, central repository so all information and its context, can be shared instantly. That way, everything is transparent and easily accessible. That empowers everyone to get their job done.

Figure Out Processes / Timelines

Along with roles and responsibilities, process guidelines are essential for staying on track. Knowing under what circumstances you need to call meetings, and when not to. What meetings need to be regular, which ones are ad hoc? How do different tasks get done? Start basic. Keep it simple. The less complexity, the faster you’ll operate. The greater the risk of any particular task, the more you’ll need to figure out how many touch points the process needs to have.

Pilot – Pilot – Pilot

Always test. The more complicated the project, the more you need to try it on a small scale to work out the bugs before you scale to full size. There will always be “bugs.” Artists and manufacturers do this all the time. It applies to any kind of project – no matter what it is. Failing small is a lot better than going splat in front of the world.

Have a BackUp for Everything

Have reasonable alternatives available for your most critical tasks and lynchpins. Try to avoid backing yourself into a corner. You want to leave room to maneuver. Remember that Murphy runs everything and he enjoys making things go wrong. Don’t play by his rules. Have alternatives for everything.

Have Fun

When you get right down to it if you can’t also have some fun along the way, why work so hard? Don’t underestimate the importance of play. The more pressure your team is under to deliver, the more you’ll all need to blow off steam. Finding ways and time to have fun is a heck of a lot healthier than taking the pressure out on each other.