On collaboration


Euan Semple writes:

I have always said that the first step to real collaboration, as opposed to just having a shared space to stick your unreadable documents, is having the self awareness, the humility, and the courage to admit that you need help.

Too right!

Back when I was a local government officer, I used to be involved in things like local strategic partnerships – only the first word was, I think, accurate.

Anyway, various ‘delivery partners’ would turn up to a meeting, pledge to do something collaborative – i.e. something they were going to do anyway – and then go off and do it on their own, as they always would have done. Three months later, this activity would be announced at the result of partnership working and collaboration.

Am sure everyone reading this will have seen this happening, and as Euan says, no file sharing platform is going to fix this.

Instead, a sensible collaboration conversation ought to look like this:

  1. Decide on shared outcomes – are they really shared? are they really outcomes? Much of this is about aligning interests – all organisations should be open about their motivations and why they are collaborating. Then, through some enlightened self interest, it ought to be possible to plot a course that meets everyone’s needs, including the people all the partners are trying to help.
  2. Map what every organisation can bring to the table to help achieve those outcomes
  3. Identify the gaps. Is there another group who could meet those? If not, are they collaboration-killers? Can you still achieve your shared outcomes without those skills or resources? If not, you might need to reboot. Important: don’t pretend you can do something you can’t!
  4. Come up with a framework for organising and measuring activity and how it maps across to your outcomes, so you know whether you’re succeeding or not and can pivot accordingly
  5. Only meet if you really need to – and only have those that need to meet turn up – no agenda stuffing, or meat in the room
  6. Have an open way of reporting progress, through an online dashboard, say, so that everyone can see who is doing what and how much of an impact it is having.

LocalGovCamp 2014 thoughts #3 – collaboration is key

I found LocalGovCamp a really refreshing and cheering event this year. I’m going to spend a few quick posts writing up my thoughts.

Mary McKenna brilliantly facilitated an excellent discussion on collaboration – why it is needed, why it hasn’t worked that well up to now, and how that might be fixed.

Some great input came from FutureGov‘s Dom Campbell, who spoke about the some of the challenges trying to implement their Patchwork tool across multiple agencies.

There was also discussion of the limitations of the traditional approach to partnership working – overly bureaucratic, slow to make decisions, agencies working individually to deliver what should be shared objectives, really boring meetings, and so on.

What’s needed is a more agile, responsive and flexible approach to working in partnership to deliver shared outcomes.

This needs to mean organisations sharing people, resources, systems, data and more – and not just tick-box style partnerships.

What’s also vital to to this working are grown up conversations are needed about who can deliver what with the resources they have. This is no time for pride.

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Collaboration ground rules

groundrules_bSometimes to make collaboration work you need to set some ground rules.

It’s easy to say, “let’s start up a google doc!” – and imagine everyone leaping in to give their ideas. But it’s not so simple as that, especially if folk haven’t had the experience or confidence in this way of working.

Instead it’s necessary to have a think about how the collaborative activity might be approached, and ensure everyone is aware of the process you have selected.

Often this will be the case when the technology available is a bit lacking. As an example, a recent collaborative effort I started was based in a ‘Note’ within a group on Yammer. Notes are the collaborative writing part of Yammer, but they aren’t terribly sophisticated and won’t allow you to use formatting such as tables.

So, I spent a bit of time describing how to add ideas to the list. I came up with a fairly simple process that involved a bold heading for each new item, with two bullets points underneath for other related information to be recorded.

Without this introduction, people may have been unsure what to do, and so not bother, or even accidentally start hacking up what others had written.

At the very least, when working on a Google Doc with others, for example, I’ll put “No deletions!” at the top as a general rule to people.

Any other collaboration ground rule tips to share?

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

How the digital workplace is transforming office life

Great talk from Sharon O’Dea:

By moving information and services online, successful companies enable their staff to work from any location, and almost any device, so that work becomes what you do, not where you go. In this session, learn how the digital workplace supports more flexible working, reduces costs – and makes employees happier and healthier.

Google+ launches communities

Google+ is an interesting – if quiet – place. It’s not used by very many people, which is a shame, as the interface is rather nice and it features some really cool bits of technology.

Hangouts, for instance, are fantastic – on demand video conferencing which integrates neatly with Google’s other services likes Docs and so on.

However, because so few people are active there, it does feel a bit empty at times. When asked if organisations should use it as a space for engagement, I tend to say no – as time would be better spent working with the much larger existing communities on Twitter and Facebook.

Perhaps though Google+ is just a different space for doing different things. I wonder if it’s a better vehicle for collaboration than communication.

Take the new communities – basically the G+ version of Facebook Groups. You create your community, invite people in and then share updates, links, videos and so on just as you do in other similar spaces.

I’ve set up a ‘digital innovation’ community to test it out – do join in!

Here’s a video to explain more:

Communities are nicely integrated into other Google services – for example you can share links into your communities directly from Google Reader; and with a bit of fiddling can make a Google Doc editable by all members of a community. Of course, this being G+, you also have the ability to video conference via Hangouts whenever you want.

I have reservations about how useful G+ communities will be for public engagement activities. However, as I mentioned above, they are particularly suited I think to project working.

Indeed, the suite of tools that Google has made for collaboration, including Communities, the email based Groups, Docs, Hangouts, the wiki-like Sites – is fantastic and mostly free.

If you are a small organisation or team, and don’t have too many hangups about information security and so on, Google does pretty much everything you need to work smarter out of the box. Well worth having a play.