Protecting Against Collaboration Failure
Collaboration is based on the concept of power in numbers, but what happens when those numbers disagree or get disconnected? Failure is almost inevitable. Successful collaboration requires successful communication. Everyone in the group needs to accept each other’s viewpoints and trust one another’s judgments. This does not mean people have to agree on every decision, but they should recognize that everyone is doing their best to make meaningful contributions based on their own unique talents and viewpoints. For a successful collaboration, all stakeholders should share complete, accurate information to make shared decisions. Group members should also settle on a compatible definition of what success looks like. And the whole team should agree on which goals, metrics and expectations they will use to measure that success. So many issues can derail a collaborative project, but two overarching concerns involve a lack of agreement about the end goal, and a lack of structure for how to get there, according to Andrew Mottaz
, CEO of ProtoShare, a maker of collaborative software to build website and web application prototypes. Here are several other factors that can cause collaborations to fail:
- The project is based on a leader’s idea, but followers remain unclear on its business value.
- The project’s sponsor is too busy to really listen to the project participants.
- Leadership puts the execution process ahead of the planning process.
- Leadership provides the wrong resources to address the problem.
Collaboration breaks down when people start working in silos or when they fail to share knowledge and expertise. Another stumbling block arises when colleagues disagree about the root source of a problem. That’s why it is so important to have a structure in place to steer the collaboration. Best practices can help counter subjective biases and educate stakeholders. And setting up a crowdsourcing platform to guide group members will ensure they are not working at cross-purposes. Maybe the most important element for a winning collaboration is simply getting the group to interact, and enabling people to synchronize their expectations. As Andrew Mottaz of ProtoShare so eloquently puts it, all of us are smarter than some of us, and you never know where the brilliant idea will come from, or what part of the discussion will trigger it.