05 July 2011

Measuring Collaboration

Michael Sampson's June newsletter talked about how we measure collaboration.

How do we know if a group or team is being collaborative (or even an organization for that matter)? Are there objective attributes we could look for that would define collaborativeness?

He goes on to offer three possible ideas:
1) Collaborative technologies,
2) Collaborative langueage,
3) The presence of well-formed collaborative interaction routines

For me the answer might lie in looking at some definitions:
"Cooperation" is when we both work on complimentary tasks to achieve a shared goal.
"Collaboration" is when we both work on the same task for a shared benefit.

So indicators of collaboration would revolve around two areas (two that have been taking a lot of my time lately): Ambient Awareness and Adaptive Ability.

By ambient awareness I mean an awareness of the business around you outside the normal hierarchy. ie: talking about another person's project or problems, reading a few customer feedback letters before they are processed, glancing through an online industry forum, picking up when workmates are stressed or upset.
In terms of collaboration, this isn't so much about awareness of work loads, as it is about where a person or teams speciality can fill a gap. Collaboration could be evidenced by regular formal or informal discussions about current events and also possibly by a give-and-take economy, ie: I'll scratch your back in anticipation that you will either pay it back or forward so I will get a benefit eventually when I need it.

By adaptive ability I mean how well set up is the individual, team or entire organisation to respond to opportunities or threats, especially those outside their base responsibilities. This responsive ability could be measured in terms of people's:
- resources (do they have the time and budget to collaborate?)
- inclination (are they characterised by serving others and being dependable?)
- focus (are people open to change or over-reliant on set procedures and tasks?)

Following this logic then, the term "I don't know and I don't care" would be the very antithesis of collaboration.

If you are interested, Michael has written some fantastic books around collaboration and helping your business adopt collaboration solutions like Sharepoint for greater effectiveness.
Check them out here: www.michaelsampson.net/books.html