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Breaking Down Collaboration - A Practical Model to Help you Measure and Improve it


Teams and individuals work together in order to achieve outcomes, and we are witnessing various types of interaction between them. However, a successful outcome requires something more than interaction and a statement of “working together”. It requires collaboration and purpose, specifically one that is shared.

While purpose is the strategic foundation that drives everything and should be shared between teams and individuals, defining the direction, collaboration on the other hand is how we can get there. It’s more about operationalizing this strategy, supporting it with our day-to-day actions and behaviors. It’s execution, discipline, integrity and engagement.

Every time we state ‘we work together’, we usually interact with each other, but is this collaboration? Do our actions and interactions support, in the best possible way, the shared purpose? We do have teams and individuals with an exceptionally strong will to collaborate, but are they achieving it? Do they act as ONE entity?

Breaking Down Collaboration - The Model

After 20 years of managing businesses, products, services, processes and people, in various roles and industries, I have developed a simple but practical model that helps me evaluate and improve collaboration between teams and individuals.

I believe Collaboration consists of 10 Foundational Elements, which if we succeed to identify, explore, measure, and improve them, collaboration gets improved holistically and naturally.

These 10 Collaboration Foundational Elements are:

1. Empathy: Ability to understand another person’s feelings and perspective (pains, needs, and wants).

2. Proactiveness: Taking the initiative to act proactively on any topic or resolution without waiting to be tasked. Doing the 1st step

3. Responsiveness: Responding promptly, even if you don’t know the answer.

4. Behavior (Being Helpful/Polite/Kind): Being polite and eager to help in any way you can (providing a solution hands-on/advice, network of contacts, giving feedback etc.).

5. Active Listening: Active listening keeps you engaged in your conversation positively. It is the process of listening attentively while someone else speaks, paraphrasing and reflecting back what is said, and withholding judgment and advice.

6. Clarity in Communication: Be concise and stick to the point.

7. Network and Information Sharing: Networking with people from different teams and sharing (where appropriate) what you or your organization is working on.

8. Commitment & Ownership: Do what you say you will do. Take ownership and come back with an answer which can be a solution, a contact or a resource.

9. Understanding of the Impact: Understanding what your contribution means to other teams and how your performance of collaboration impacts them and the entire value chain.

10. Prioritization: Prioritizing always by taking into account the big picture. Asking and understanding other teams and individuals’ priorities, communicate yours, and work together to align them wherever this is possible.

Measure it - Improve it - Manage it

Like the idea? Want to know how to get started?

The best way to begin improving collaboration is realizing it takes two to tango and “if you want to change the world, you have to start by changing yourself” (Gandhi).

We will use a combination of Customer Satisfaction Rating Survey together with a Feedback Giving approach.

Now, since we are talking about teams and individuals we need to keep in mind that it always sums down to people. Even if there are things such as common sense, facts and hard data, intentions, and good will, at the end of the day what matters in people's interactions, is how they perceive each other.

My suggestion is to create a Perceptional Collaboration Evaluation Survey that will help you rate how well you are doing in each one of the 10 Collaboration Foundational Elements, while getting an overall collaboration score.

The survey should consist of 10 mandatory 5-Star Rating blocks (one for every collaboration foundational element), accompanied by 2 optional free text fields that will allow the participants to give you examples justifying the rating, and perhaps proposing what action from your side would be considered an improvement.

Here is a "visually compact" example of how the Survey and the Survey Results could look like. Each foundational element counts 10% of the overall Collaboration score.



Signed vs. Anonymous, and Frequency

Signed or Anonymous? I would say that this depends on the maturity of your organization and the relationships between teams and people. This is a “feedback type” of information therefore, should be treated as a gift that helps to build trust, openness and most of all self-awareness. This is why it should stay away from any performance or yearly appraisal plans.

On that basis I would highly recommend signed responses.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, running the exercise is more important than not doing it, so if people feel better responding in an anonymous way, then that’s the way to go.

When it comes to frequency - I would suggest anywhere between 2-4 times per year would be fine. This would allow you to track any progress made.

Takeaways & Action

Closing I would like to highlight 3 key takeaways and suggest 3 actions:

3 Key Takeaways

If we really want to improve collaboration

  • It’s important we hold honest and transparent discussions with each other

  • It’s all about how others perceive us

  • It is more important to get feedback than not. A survey with ratings is far more valuable since it will help you to identify the issues, keep what’s working well and focus any improvement efforts on what’s not. Still, if this is not possible due to various reasons try to do it by simply hosting an open discussion.

3 Actions

  1. Give it a try and share your experience in the comments (ideally on LinkedIn or Twitter) how well (or not) worked for you. What would you keep, or what would you change and why?

  2. Share in the comments below, what is your favorite way to measure and improve collaboration between teams and individuals.

  3. If you like it and find it useful - share it! :)


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