What makes good collaboration? 10 real-world tips

10 tips for better collaborationSocial intranets can improve collaboration. But it can be easy to focus solely on the software and lose sight of the fact that good collaboration ultimately depends on people, not technology.

In a recent post we provided a useful and succinct definition of “collaboration.” Here we’ve outlined ten real-world tips for good collaboration.

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10 tips for doing collaboration right

1) Constantly clarify roles, especially in meetings: “Who’s facilitating the meeting? Who’s noting next steps?” Overlapping or unclear roles lead to confusion, duplicate efforts and oversights in follow-up.

2) Explicitly state responsibilities: Never say “we’ll do X” because then it’ll never happen. Whenever there is a follow up item, state the single person responsible as well as the due date.

3) Be honest about mistakes: A manager sets the tone for her team. If she admits mistakes and expects her team members to call her out when she violates team norms, then she will set a powerful example for accountability.

4) Go into the conflict zone, respectfully: In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni lists “fear of conflict” as dysfunction #2, and offers tips on how teams can deal with conflict effectively. Conflict is important — deftly handling it can expose important problems, help team members improve their performance, and bring people closer together.

5) Explicitly identify who’s responsible for each decision & how it will be made: Is this agenda item a group decision, or is the manager just trying to gather input for her decision? Does everyone need to agree or will 3-out-of-5 be enough to decide? Lack of clarity here leads to false assumptions, wandering discussions and confusion.

6) Create an online workspace, together: Don’t make your online workspace the administrative assistant’s responsibility alone. Instead, work together as a team to identify the structure and learn the software. This joint process will lead to stronger adoption and increased accountability.

7) Managers: Exemplify collaboration software use: If a team is shifting to a new software tool, the surest way to fail is for the manager to not use it. At Intrawest Placemaking the company president, Drew Stotesbury, used their ThoughtFarmer intranet from day one to gather employee input. Anything he posted received immediate responses and his use triggered an organizational transformation.

8) Craft simple, outcome-oriented goals: The more complicated a goal is, the more room for interpretation and extrapolation. Go the extra mile to make your goals simple and concrete. Outcome-oriented goals focus on results rather than just products and can provide greater clarity and focus.

9) Consistently review team/project goals: By consistently restating your goals you can keep the team’s efforts focused when opportunities and decisions arise and keep a tight grasp on the scope of your efforts.

10) Discuss how the team’s goals tie into the organization’s: By linking a team’s or project’s goals to larger company goals you can find inspiration and a higher sense of purpose. Everyone on the team will feel they are playing a meaningful role.

Good collaboration takes courage

These aren’t the types of simple tips you can implement without any thought. All of them require some planning, courage and commitment.

Social intranet software offers a huge improvement over the tools many people use to collaborate. But software itself is only part of the puzzle.

The real value surfaces when you also have the courage to change people’s habits and ways of working together. Do that and you’ll amplify the power of your social intranet.