Focus on collaboration. RiverRhee Consulting Newsletter, September – October 2015

By Elisabeth Goodman, 13th October 2015

Why focus on collaboration?

I like to pick a topical theme for these bi-monthly newsletters, and, although the projects that RiverRhee has been engaged in since the summer have been quite a mix, collaboration seems to be a tidy theme to blend them all together.

Collaboration is also the topic I chose for my latest blog (Is it psychobabble? How better understanding can lead to better collaboration).

Finally, the autumn issue for APM’s Project magazine includes a highlighted blog on collaboration, and also an article featuring collaboration as one of three magic words for project management [1]– so they confirmed my choice of theme!

As defined in the APM highlighted blog “Don’t be seduced by the drive to collaborate” (Jim Dale, 6th June 2015) collaboration is: ‘the action of working with someone to produce something’. Whilst Dale’s blog focuses on collaboration (or alliances) between organisations, RiverRhee’s focus is more on how to promote effective collaboration within organisations.

Delegates collaborating during an Introduction to Management course

Delegates collaborating during an Introduction to Management course

The three aspects of collaboration addressed in this newsletter are inspired by:

  • The enthusiasm with which delegates in our Introduction to Management and Supervisor Training courses and Team Effectiveness workshops gain new insights about themselves and the people that they work with
  • The richness of opportunities identified when operational and project teams take the time to carry out team diagnostics or learning reviews to explore how they could work together more effectively
  • The tremendous benefits that teams can gain for example in idea generation, problem resolution, decision making and innovation from the support of a knowledge facilitator

Strength in diversity

When managers recruit new team members, there is a risk that they will recruit very similar people on the premise that this will result in greater team harmony. However, as our delegates learn, a team is enriched by the diversity that their members can bring.

A high performing team is where that diversity is nurtured. It is where the manager, as well as each team member has learnt to understand their own and each other’s strengths, and how they can use these strengths and support each other to collaborate more effectively.

In the past few weeks Janet Burton and I have used role-play based on the Belbin team roles in our Introduction to Management course to help people appreciate how this approach to diversity can enrich the work of their teams. We have also used resources such as OPP’s ‘Flip-a-type-tips’ with delegates in a Team Effectiveness workshop to understand people’s MBTI profiles and how to enrich communication and support colleagues in times of stress.

OPP's MBTI Flip-a-type tip

OPP’s MBTI Flip-a-type tip

I am pleased to say that we have enriched the diversity of our own team by adding Liz Mercer as a RiverRhee Associate. You can find out more about Liz and our other Associates on the “Who we are” page of our website.

Continuous improvement for teams

There are some powerful knowledge management techniques to help teams learn from their experiences and so improve the quality of their collaborations. John Riddell and I helped to design a Learning Retrospect, or Learning Review for one team, which I then facilitated.

A Learning Retrospect is usually carried out at the end of a project, and can last a half-day or longer in a workshop-style environment. It can review the whole history of a project, and is usually more formally structured and facilitated than the more widely known and adopted After Action Review (AAR).

Because of the depth of information to be covered, the questions are typically explored through written as well as verbal dialogue, for instance through the use of a pre-workshop survey, followed by the workshop itself.

Radar diagramme showing the use of a rating scale for a team diagnostic

Radar diagramme showing the use of a rating scale for a team diagnostic

We have found that the use of a rating scale, and portrayal of the results on a radar diagramme, supported by summarized textual comments, to be powerful enablers of in-depth conversations, and productive triggers for recommendations for improving the team’s collaboration.

Knowledge facilitation

Another aspect of knowledge management that John and I have been engaged in is developing “A short module designed to introduce Library and Information Professionals to their potential to foster effective knowledge sharing and collaboration in their organisation.”

This free online course, now available on CILIP’s (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), shows how these “Knowledge Facilitators” can add their subject knowledge and professional skills to those of the team that they are supporting and so enhance the quality of decision making, innovation and other activities arising out of effective collaboration.

Screenshot of our video as part of the CILIP VLE course on 'Adding value as knowledge facilitators'

Screenshot of our video in CILIP’s new VLE course on ‘Adding value as a knowledge facilitator’

The course can be accessed on the CILIP VLE website.

Conclusion

I’ve shared a few ideas about how you might enhance the collaboration within your team. Which of these might you explore? Are there other approaches that you have found can really make a difference to how well you and/or your colleagues collaborate?

About RiverRhee Consulting

RiverRhee Consulting has been delivering training, mainly in the form of workshops, and coaching since 2009.

Subject areas include:

  • Supervisor and management skills.
  • Team building & effectiveness.
  • Operational excellence (Lean and Six Sigma).
  • Change management.
  • Project management.
  • Knowledge management.

We are training providers for several library and information groups such as CILIP, Aslib, TFPL, and for One Nucleus and Cogent Skills.

Do get in touch if you would like to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting, our range of off-site and in-house workshops, and how we can help you to create exceptional managers and teams in 2015 and beyond.

Further notes

[1] Clare Belsey. Three magic words. What is the difference between collaboration, interfacing and integration on a construction project? Project, Autumn 2015, pp.64-65

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