Collaboration and building your “Thinking Platform”
Collaboration works and fails at a multitude of levels. We can see examples of this in government, business and our personal lives. There are numerous articles extolling the virtues of effective collaboration and disasters that occur when done poorly. From a business perspective, it is imperative to work effectively with others at a variety of levels. Doing so will give greater insights into the challenges that face your business, help you develop better solutions to those challenges and give you more time to focus on executing the plan. Building an effective Thinking Platform is the foundation for establishing an efficient and successful collaborative process.
By definition, Collaboration is working together towards a common end. However, without a process to guide the process, most efforts to collaborate fall short of expectations or worse fail altogether. The primary reasons for this disconnect involve:
- Lack of clarity and buy-in surrounding goals, objectives and outcomes
- Poor questioning skills and listening habits
- Ineffective measurement tools
Developing a Thinking Platform sets the framework that will help you overcome these obstacles and greatly increase your odds of success. An effective Thinking Platform can be segregated into several components: the team, the objectives, accountability/execution, and reexamination. These four components provide the foundation, but how are they applied?
The Team – Who is a member and what should they do?
Building a strong collaborative team requires you to choose competent and committed people who have demonstrated expertise. They must work effectively in a group setting. They need to be able to effectively communicate their ideas and above all listen with an open mind. Members of a team might include, but are not limited to, managers, key employees, outside professionals, customers, academics and family members. The key is to assemble a team of professionals who will critically focus on the objectives that have been defined. The team must have the freedom to test and challenge ideas in order to ensure the actions taken are moving you towards your desired outcomes. This can be as laser focused as a specific product launch or as broad as the strategic direction of your company. The team is your think tank. They are there to not just agree, but to challenge and keep goals and objectives aligned with actions taken.
The Objectives – What are they?
Before you can begin solving the problem of the day or establish the mission of your company, you have to able to clearly identify your goals and objectives (for yourself and the team.) This is true regardless of whether you are talking about establishing an advisory board for your business or solving a specific technical issue. Defining your objectives and goals means having clear answers to those journalist questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. These answers are the foundation that unites your Thinking Platform. They provide the shared value framework that keeps the team focused, aligned, and clear on the “prize” or solution.
Execution – Are you winning?
Is the team delivering to the objectives? How are you measuring success? Giving The Team the flexibility and authority to create within your shared framework will open the door to better, quicker and more profitable solutions. Do not bog the team down with layers of hierarchy or rigid rules. Sharing a common vision and our innate desire to succeed will keep the process moving forward. The caveat is that the vision/purpose of the group must be shared, and there needs to a common method for measuring the outcomes of the group think in order to ensure consistency with the goals.
Reexamination – What are you missing?
Open questions and transparency is the secret sauce that ties things together. Reexamination is the process of, as Stephen Covey put it, sharpening the saw. Asking, what am I, we, us, missing, keeps us aware of the changes that surround our businesses and our lives. It keeps us open to the possibilities of new opportunities and warns us of potential risks.
Creating a collaborative process to share ideas around a common set of goals and objectives will transform your business. It will speed the delivery of your business in the marketplace. It will make your business more nimble. It will narrow your blind spots. It will provide a springboard for success that includes not only you, but also your business, your customers, and your employees.