The Jan/Feb 2016 Crosstalk recently became available on line http://www.crosstalkonline.org/.  In it you will find several great articles but there is one that is a must read if collaboration with a team is an important aspect of your job.  Alistair Cockburn authored a great article call “Increasing collaboration by the Minute”.  In this article he gives a brief summary of the evolution of collaboration citing as well some missteps along the way. As a percent who frequently collaborates with teams, he reflects that he often finds himself in a situation where he wishes he had some tools, right then and there to increase the effectiveness of an on-going collaboration.

He then goes on to discuss a study focused on answering this question, which he conducted in 2007. The study attempted to identify what behaviors induce collaboration (or adversely what behaviors discourage collaboration). As a result of this study, the author presents specific actions that any member of a team can take to improve the outcome of the collaboration.  He outlines seventeen such actions grouped into four categories:

·         Lift Others – Actions focused on making sure that all the members of the team feel that their opinions are welcome and considered

·         Increase Safety – Actions that convince those timid members of the team that it’s OK and safe to speak up, even if they have differing opinions

·         Get Results – Actions focused on making sure the collaboration results in value and creates a positive outcome

·         Add Energy – Actions focused on keeping the energy level of the discussion high and deflecting situations where the team loses interest or focus.

Having a list of specific actions and putting them to use in the heat of the collaboration moment are two separate things.  To combat this, the author has suggested that different team members be asked to focus on one of them – noting when the action occurs or is violated and what impact this had on the collaboration.  (He even has created a deck of cards to hand out to the team to facilitate this process). 

This is a great article and I strongly suggest you check it out. More and more of us, especially in the software world rely extensively on collaboration with our development teams and our users – we could all stand to be better at it.  If you’re like me you’ll notice things that happen during discussions with your team and occasionally you’ll find an opportunity to subtly help a timid member speak, a conversation dominator back down or lead the team to an unexpected and desirable results.