Collaboration, Expectation & Results

RMIT MDF — Future Design Contexts, Assignment 1
Group: Rena Gashumba, Georgina Lewis & Sarah Moore

In collaborative projects it’s important to create an environment where people with different backgrounds who have complementary skills, opposing personalities and work styles can thrive. Getting from the big idea towards a successful outcome means that strategies for collaboration need to be carefully managed. Online publication, Rapid Collaborative Group Formation by Hailey Cooperrider discusses seven questions to ask when engaging collaboratively as a team, below are the two selected to discuss in the context of a professional collaboration scenario:

5. How are we communicating and coordinating? 
6. How do we resolve conflict?

The scenario

A complicated website upgrade within a large not for profit organisation is proving frustrating for the various teams involved. The company want their donations to be able to be made online. The project is suffering, taking a toll on the marketing and development teams within the company and is already overdue and over budget.

An outside design strategist is brought in to bring direction to the project and ensure the job is completed. The development lead and the design strategist that’s been contracted to finalise the project, will be the main focus of this exploration.

How are we communicating and coordinating? 
Why is there a conflict?

“The single most important thing you can do to help your teams succeed is provide clear, consistent performance criteria.”[1]

The team leader has made many (incredibly vague) requests to revise the work on the payment system start page which requires the team to develop new fresh ideas with each request while flying blind to the direction of the revised objectives. She in turn has been under pressure from the company to get a job done that is outside her field of expertise.

Shared Understanding enables Shared Vision which guides Active Contribution to a Shared Plan and Shared Outcomes [2]

The development lead is unmotivated because she is annoyed that an outside design strategist has been brought in. The design strategist feels that that her efforts and time are being wasted.

How do we resolve conflict? Setting Clear Expectations

The most difficult aspect is that the team leader often approves strategies and ideas, then changes her mind once the work is already done, which forces the team to start all the work again. This is proving very frustrating to the team, who feel over-worked and underappreciated.

The company has not set very clear expectations for the team leader (a developer by trade not a marketing or subscription expert) but she is feeling the pressure to get the job done, so is in turn putting pressure on her team to complete tasks that are not clearly defined.

“Make team success more likely by sharing work approaches and behaviors, and by communicating frequently and clearly.”[3]

The design strategist is aware that a conflict is present. The team leader refuses to progress every proposal the design strategist puts forward, but only after having already approved the original idea. The team leader gives no feedback as to why the proposal is rejected.

To resolve this conflict, the design strategist politely requests a private meeting based on a time that the team leader chooses. Firstly the design strategist acknowledges the conflict by stating that the project is not progressing as they both wish.

“To improve your team’s performance, communicate the urgency of the situation to potential team members. Let them know why their efforts matter, and what direction they should take…emphasize skills and potential capabilities, not personalities.”[4]

The design strategist shows that they are sensitive to the team leaders predicament and that they have a common problem that they can solve together. The design strategist harnesses the team leader’s agenda and shows her how her insights are invaluable and that she has made some great algorithms but has not made the way that people accessing the payment systems very attractive or easy. Both the team leader and the strategist want to complete the payment system, so have set clear expectations, clarified boundaries and processes and found a common goal to communicate to the marketing team to get a design that works.

The glue that holds the core together is strategy, whether implicit or explicit. The more strategically aligned the core, the more they are able to act independently in service of the collaboration [5]

References

[1] Katzenbach and Smith, The Wisdom of Teams Creating the High-Performance Organization, Summarized by permission of Harvard Business School Press, McKinsey & Company, Inc.1993, p37

[2] Cooperrider, Hailey (2016), #EpicCollaboration

http://epiccollaboration.com/frameworks/rapid-collaborative-group-formation

[3] Katzenbach and Smith, The Wisdom of Teams Creating the High-Performance Organization, Summarized by permission of Harvard Business School Press, McKinsey & Company, Inc.1993, p56

[4] Katzenbach and Smith, The Wisdom of Teams Creating the High-Performance Organization, Summarized by permission of Harvard Business School Press, McKinsey & Company, Inc.1993, p56

[5] Cooperrider, Hailey (2016), #EpicCollaboration

http://epiccollaboration.com/frameworks/rapid-collaborative-group-formation