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7.4: A Look at Successful Collaboration

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    Establish clear objectives and tasks

    Successful collaboration is created by the use of several strategies, including the ability to establish clear objectives and tasks. Just as with individual writing, team writing must employ clear objectives. It is imperative for the success of the project that the objective is clear from the outset. Clear objectives serve as a goal or end result the team aims to achieve. Those goals or objectives serve as a sort of “lighthouse” that can be seen from a distance to help guide the members to “safe harbors” or guide the members to a successful end result.

    Each member of the team should know from the start what is expected of her. She should know her specific part and the connection of that part to the tasks and roles of other team members. Each member should see her role as important and one, which, if not completed with an inside-out mindset (a term created by Blanchard, Ripley and Parisi-Carew to indicate the need for collaboration to start on the inside of a person’s heart, move to her intellect and finally to the hands – where the work occurs), will negatively impact the project.

    It is important, then, that the team develop a space to meet and discuss the project – to ask questions, share ideas, provide input on the overall project, etc.

    Conduct effective meetings

    Another strategy of successful collaboration is the ability to conduct effective meetings that allow members to comfortably share their views and expertise. Being able to do so is often contingent on the ability of the team to employ careful listening skills versus just allowing a member to speak where team members just hear what is being shared. The difference in the two – listening versus hearing – is defined by intent and purpose. In The Science and Art of Listening (2012), Seth Horowitz delineates the two this way: “The difference between the sense of hearing and the skill of listening is attention.” In order to listen versus hear what is being said, then, you must choose (or intend) to understand what is being said, you must give your attention to what is being said. “Listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload.” (Horowitz, 2012). “The richness of life doesn’t lie in the loudness and the beat,” he continues, “but in the timbres and the variations that you can discern if you simply pay attention.” (Horowitz, 2012).

    Set a project schedule

    Successful collaboration is also dependent upon setting a project schedule. In today’s technological world, there is an abundance of tools that enable teams to successfully achieve their end result by have a clear view of what is needed and when. Tools such as WorkZone, Basecamp, and Microsoft Project, among others, allow teams to know the schedule of their project and see the progress throughout.

    Keep them honest

    Maintaining a sense of ethical responsibility toward the project and team members is not only important, but it is imperative for the success of the project. In Business Ethics: Concepts and Cases (2011), Manuel G. Velasquez outlines ethical standards that are helpful to consider in collaborative situations.

    • Rights: Everyone has a right to engage in intellectual discussions at work without fear of reprisal. Likewise, when a document or product is produced, the general public has a right to expect that honesty was central in its production.
    • Justice: Everyone should receive the same justice regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. Team members should be treated the same. If not, the team can become divided into separate "camps," and the project can, in turn, become derailed.
    • Utility: Consideration should be given for how group decisions will impact all involved. When the group operates as one unit, members will consider the impact that decisions will have on each of its members. The idea of operating as silos is thrown out of the window because it is understood that what affects one affects all.
    • Care: Because the group operates from the "inside-out" mindset (heart-head-hand), care is given to those who are closest to members and with whom members work.

    Encourage discussion and diversity

    Finally, successful collaboration is contingent upon the very definition of collaboration as discussed earlier in the chapter – fostering an environment that promotes communication, learning, maximum contribution, and innovation. (Blanchard, Ripley, Parisi-Carew, 2012). In other words, team members must feel comfortable sharing and at times debating about their ideas. Members should be allowed to fully operate in the diversity they bring to the team. No team member should be made to feel that her contribution is less important than that of other team members because she may be differently abled. Likewise, a team member who is a part of the LGBTQ community, even if his sexual orientation is not considered a part of the majority in the workplace, should be allowed to communicate ideas on the project from his perspective. Allowing a contribution of ideas from diverse perspectives is best for the project because it takes into consideration the diverse audience who will most likely be the readers of the project. In the end, openness in discussion creates a product that considers the audience, a primary rule in writing for technical audiences.

    In his article "6 Fundamentals of Effective Collaboration" (2010) that appeared in Talent Culture World of Work, Chris Jones, an IT Strategy and Change Management consultant, muses on his "secret sauce" ingredients for effective collaboration. Jones identifies six ideas he insists is necessary for effective collaboration.

    • Engagement
    • Keeping it real (being authentic)
    • A bias for learning and discovery
    • Respect for community members
    • Driving a positive vibe
    • Focus on results

    Notice the similarities between the four standards identified by Velasquez (2011) and the six ideas listed by Jones (2010). Indeed, without these, collaboration in writing or in any other team setting will not be successful.

    This page titled 7.4: A Look at Successful Collaboration is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Tiffani Reardon, Tammy Powell, Jonathan Arnett, Monique Logan, & Cassie Race.

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