The Art of Successful Collaboration

Create to CollaborateI have been a fan of collaboration for many years at work. “Many hands make light work”. I hardly questioned that collaboration can actually be a hindrance. Sure, I am – like many – aware if one doesn’t pull his own weight the whole team suffers. Although, I didn’t click what prevents this.

Today I came across this article on 99U by Ron Friedman. Using the example of good and bad marriages as well as John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles he shows that collaboration comes with an opportunity cost. And if that isn’t paid, collaboration pulls everybody down.

I don’t intend to repeat his examples and arguments, please read the above article for it. No, I want to highlight what to do to make collaboration successful (which Ron does towards the end of the article)

The best (visual) design tends to happens late at night.

Jasper Stephenson, a 10 week intern at Adaptive Path said this in his parting blog post.

If I think back to much of my favorite work, the execution part has come from trance-like zen states where I work until well after midnight — not by necessity, but by nature of having a constant flow of ideas that demand to be realized. There’s much to be said for having a team all present in the same space at the same time and the cohesion of ideas that comes from that, but it’s hard to enter a trance of exploration and creation in such an active office.

And this is pretty much what Ron said about The Beatles. The ideas, the rough diamonds, the blink “let’s do this” doesn’t come from the group huddle. It comes from the inspiration at a “non-busy” spot. Like a shower, mowing the lawn, or watching the waves roll in. Then the first bit of hard work starts, working on the very inspiration so I can explain it to my friends.

The Spark

A blank canvas is not stimulating, having 4 or 6 people staring at a blank whiteboard doesn’t help either. A spark is necessary. Much is said about Brainstorming as an idea generating stimulus. Not so. Brainstorming works when you have a facilitator and a topic. Even better, if your participants know the brainstorming session is tomorrow and they have individually time to think about it even if only unconsciously. Ron Friedman demands “homework is necessary”: [The Beatles] collaborated after they [individually] had gotten a piece as far as they could, and were ready for suggestions.

Collaboration

When you meet to discuss the merits and the foolishness of your idea look at your team. Do they tend to agree? Do they have the same sort of thinking? Do they excel at the same disciplines? Let’s face it, while we like people who agree with our ideas – it makes us feel good!, we learn more if people have different view points, different strengths, and can say so without being blunt but in a supportive manner.

Collaborations are most effective when teammates complement rather than replicate one another’s abilities. 

Summing it up

Collaboration works best when

  • there is a rough idea that is the result of hard work – alone
  • there is a team that complements each other
  • there is a team that prepares for collaboration
  • there is a willingness to critique consciously
  • there is a willingness to accept such critique
  • there is a recognition the final outcome is a team effort

 

 

Why should I do Information Management?

Wanted! people that follow processes

Wanted! people that follow processes

In my previous post I highlighted the 4 corner stones of good Information Management.

  • people
  • processes
  • content and
  • technology

Today, I want to add more detail on the people section. You can have the most clever system and still nobody cares. That would be worst case scenario. How can we pave the way for being successful on this front?

User Experience

About 10 years ago I was the first time involved in Document Management. A small team having experts from the different business areas designed the requirements. A large 20 page document outlined all meta data we could think of, structured in categories and divided into mandatory and optional items. We presented this to a selected group of people with devastating result. It failed the 7 second filing test.

One guy said, “if it takes me longer than 7 seconds to file a document with all this extra data, I won’t do it. I’ll use my trusted filing system where I know exactly where my documents are. Others are most welcome to follow the same process.”

These few sentences highlighted common problems with projects, that were not designed with the user in mind but with a process or an ideal outcome. In this case, all documents would be perfectly tagged with relevant meta data and a process would take care of that.

Lessons learnt:

  • any system must be at least as good as the existing system
  • any trade offs must be clearly understood and accepted
  • and the system must be designed for excellent user experience

Is UX sufficient?

The answer is likely to find in this quote:

Any information system is only as good as it is being used.

Tell me, what else can you do that people use the system?

 

4 principles of Information Management

Variety - Volume - Velocity

Variety – Volume – Velocity

The world of big data arrived some time ago. And while the amount of information on the Net is continuously rising, it happens on our personal and corporate systems, too. One only needs to look at the emergence of products like “Sanebox“, which helps you manage your email inbox, cloud storage and share systems like Dropbox and Box, and the rapidly rising capacity that Amazon provides with S3.

Every one of us has so much information available that it becomes harder to keep track of what’s important and how to find it again 2 weeks later!

Good Information Management starts with recognising that is necessary to do something about it.

People

This leads us straight to the first principle. Employees need to do Information Management and not just acknowledging it is a good thing. Hence we must put things in place that ensure people act and act consistently.

Process

This is supported by well designed processes. For example, a supplier email comes in advising a new pricelist. Who receives the email? Is it documented where the new pricelist is stored? Are relevant people notified? Is the old pricelist replaced or marked as obsolete? What happens if the email recipient has left the company?

Content

Information Management is about content. Recognise the different types of information from Word documents, to emails and phone call, from drafts to published data, or from project management to customer requests. Create categories that are relevant to your business and link those to your processes.

Technology

Okay, I’m in IT so let’s not forget that the tools you use play a role, too. Where do people store information? On the local harddrives, a shared service, the cloud? Consistently in the same folders or directories? A lot of people use their email system for storage and retrieval. Most email systems have quite good search capabilities while finding a much needed document on a shared drive or even your local computer is often a challenge. Choose technology that does what you want and is aligned how your staff works.

 

 

Good Judgement

Last month I reviewed a few presentation on Slideshare and made a note about Hubspot‘s policy approach. I remembered that during a walk at the beach while thinking about management principles. This is the note:

We don’t have pages of policies, instead we have a 3 word policy on just everything:

judgement

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Purchase!

40 Loburn Kowai RoadGood News on the land purchase front. On Sunday we agreed with the vendors on purchasing the lot at 40 Loburn Kowai Road, North Loburn. There are still a few legal and administrative hoops to go through but by June 1st we shall have that completed!

On the left you can see a quick sketch of land, the proposed driveway and building site.

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Don’t compromise!

dont_compromiseSome time ago I finished reading “Steve Jobbs”. A number of things “resonated” with me while others don’t. Some, I find simply disturbing. Then there is one item where I’m sitting on the fence.

Don’t Compromise.

The absolute belief

  • that there are no trade offs that can’t be cast away,
  • that there is always a way to get exactly what I want and to ignore the counsel of others

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