Monday, 19 September 2011

Collaboration processes - a first pass guide

We read a lot about collaboration, and there are very many guides to the use of collaboration technology.

However there does not seem to be so much available concerning the use of collaborative process, or collaborative structure. Recently, in work for a client, I have been looking for a guidance structure for collaborative process, and came up with the matrix on this page.

Does it work? Your comments welcome - this is pretty much a first pass. An explanation follows.

Firstly, I am defining collaboration here as "working together on a common issue, across organisational and/or geographical boundaries". So "working together in a co-located team" is treated here as teamwork, not collaboration.

Secondly I am looking only at process/structure, not at technology. There may be many technology solutions that could support any one process or structure.

Thirdly I am looking at multiway collaboration, and so am excluding one-way publishing in all its forms, including blogging.

The two questions which define the matrix are

1) what are you trying to achieve through collaboration?
  • working together to deliver a common product or objective?
  • seeking knowledge and advice from others to guide your own objective?
  • seeking opinion and data from others, to inform your own objective
2) Can you do this face-to-face, or does it have to be virtual?

The first question really talks about ownership of the output, and the degree of involvement of the collaborators in the solution.

The outcomes are as follows

  • What we call "knowledge exchange" - a diverse group working face to face to create a common product
  • Virtual work groups and virtual teams - the virtual equivalent of ftf workgroups and teams.
  • Peer Assist (real or virtual)
  • Communities of Practice
  • Knowledge Cafe
  • "Crowdsourcing" techniques such as surveying, polling and online brainstorms
Have I forgotten anything?


Panchobook said...

Interesting "structure", but where does the asynchronous collaboration resulting from accruing and mining knowledge bases fit in it?

Nick Milton said...

Not sure what you mean there Panchobook? Do you mean "re-using other people's stuff" to put it in lay terms?

Is that collaboration? It seems a long way from "working together", but we may just be taking different views of the meaning of collaboration

Jamie Billingham said...

Interesting way to look at this. I'm exploring something similar and am still working on the semantics.

I have a scatter plot type visual and a continuum that attempt to visually demonstrate the relationship between the various behaviours and attitudes that relate to collaboration. On the continuum they go from Connection, Communication, Consultation, Cooperation and then finally to Collaboration.

On the other diagram I relate these along two axis' of shared risk and need to reciprocate with the level of trust increasing as you move through the states. This is one of the many draft visuals I'm working on. Not sure if this is helpful to you or not :-)

Nick Milton said...

Thanks Jamie - that's very interesting. It would also be interesting to plot different structures against this. When I first saw your diagram I wondered whether the reciprocity/shared risk is always a linear relationship, but perhaps it is.

I think what I am trying to get to is a way of determining the ideal collaborative structure or process, depending on the business need

Ian Fry said...

Like the "Shared Risk" component.
For me, collaboration should involve synergy. The total at the end must be greater.
Otherwise it is "sharng" which is still legitimate though.

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