Tuesday, 2 December 2008

The Collaboration Health Check – Initial Observations

Firstly thank you to those who have sent in a completed Collaboration Health Check. And to those of you that have yet to do so, I would appreciate your contribution to the initiative too. We have no hard deadline for this phase of the initiative, however I will shortly be completing the design of the interview guide and the feedback we have from the Collaboration Health Check will inform the guide.

I did have an email exchange with a FAN Club colleague who was concerned that they might not have enough collaborative working experience to make their feedback valuable. As I said to the individual concerned, I am very interested in all colleague's perspective of collaboration generally so don't feel constrained by the level of experience or by a futures work context. My assumption is that collaboration happens in other areas but is limited in futures work, so I am keen to explore that. Also, we may learn that there is a requirement to enhance collaborative working capability so your perspective would be very valuable.

Consolidated Collaboration Health Check feedback

Here is the profile for the group based on the submissions I have received so far. I will be looking in more detail at the underlying data and sharing my observations in due course.



Monday, 17 November 2008

The Collaboration Cycle

The Collaboration Cycle is a helpful tool designed to support practitioners to work their way effectively through collaboration. There are four phases: Connecting; Contracting; Collaborating; and Closing.


CONNECTING is bringing organisations together: this involves identifying & selecting potential collaborators, understanding the differences and developing connections between values, styles, wants and offers.

CONTRACTING is creating a framework between parties that outlines what each party is expected to contribute in terms of resources, what each party will gain in terms of reward, what risks each party is prepared to take on, and what responsibilities each party will have.


COLLABORATING is designing, developing & delivering the mutual goals of the parties. This phase is a critical time when parties need to hold the inherent tensions of conflict and creativity. It is important that learnings are shared and implemented as quickly as possible.

CLOSING is reviewing the collaboration: what worked well, what didn’t work so well, what new capabilities have been created, what new opportunities have arisen through the collaboration? Agreeing that the collaboration is finished and ending in a way that leaves the legacy of a good working relationship that could sustain further collaboration in the future.

Reflections on the Edinburgh FAN Club meeting on 13th November, 2008

The meeting in Edinburgh was a great place to launch this initiative. Personally I got a sense of entrepreneurism, innovation and a willingness to engage from our Scottish colleagues. And I was delighted with the number of conversations I had during the breaks about collaborative working generally and this initiative specifically. I look forward to speaking to you in due course and to engaging with those of you unable to be in Edinburgh for this meeting.

My observations and assumptions.

Given my observations and assumptions that I shared in my presentation, I was really looking forward to an opportunity to test them during the day and with that in mind listened with a different mind-set than I might otherwise have done.

I heard a lot of good intentions; words like conversation, sharing, discussion, consultation were all used during the day. My sense is that these deeds can be used as a surrogate for collaboration. None of them commit the individual to co-creation; to giving something up in attempting to achieve a shared goal.

I’m not advocating that every interaction should be collaborative in nature, indeed there is a strong argument that says true collaboration or partnership should be the last thing you try, particularly when other business / management approaches remain valid options.

Using collaboration or partnership as words to describe how we do business is becoming very common. But these words describe potentially complex interactions and more importantly can mean different things to different people. Collaborative working is best embarked upon on the basis of an already mature relationship where open and honest conversations can take place about wants, offers, shared risk and reward and a common understanding of how shared stakeholders will benefit from our endeavours.

So what’s different about collaboration?

I was very pleased to have been able to answer one question at the end of my presentation with a description of the Collaboration Cycle and have included a description of the cycle in this blog. CLICK HERE to see the details of the Collaboration Cycle.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Introduction to this initiative.

The FAN Club is a forum where those who have an interest in horizon scanning and futures analysis can meet to exchange new ideas, innovative thinking and good practice. It is sponsored by the Horizon Scanning Centre in the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. Meetings are held quarterly and combine presentations, workshop sessions and case studies to stimulate discussion between colleagues interested in using futures thinking and decision support techniques to develop policy or strategy.

Intention

This programme of activity has been designed to explore how a collaborative working approach could bring practitioners of futures thinking together outside as well as inside existing FAN Club events, to:
  • increase the potential of the network itself
  • help enhance FAN Club members’ futures work

So we’ll be asking:

  • how well does the network sustain itself between meetings? (through productive collaborations or conversations, for example)
  • how we can encourage collaboration across the network and between the network events?

Hypothesis

Based on my observations that:

  • there is significant capability and expertise leading to notable success in futures thinking across the FAN Club network;
  • in FAN Club workshop sessions, I have rarely observed a collaborative approach in addressing issues of common interest raised by the participants themselves;
  • feedback from FAN club members acknowledges the importance of content and the presentations by futures thinking experts, reinforcing a “telling and listening” culture;
  • different futures projects can come to similar conclusions but assumptions seem to be made about the impact on other stakeholders (other departments, for example);
  • collaboration is a watch word in policy and strategic intent but not always implemented effectively on the ground, for a number of reasons

I have formed the following assumptions:

  • it can feel unsafe to share controversial insights that can emerge through futures work with other stakeholders;
  • ownership of developing work and emerging insights can be closely guarded;
  • the degree to which connections are made between different pieces of futures work in different government departments could be improved;
  • given the variety of subject matter / content addressed at FAN Club meetings, a common thread linking different FAN Club sessions could enhance members’ positive experience of the network events;
  • the experience and value that participants gain from attending FAN Club events could be further enhanced by paying attention to critical enabling skills such, as collaboration.

This leads me to hypothesise that a focus on collaborative working - within teams and between organisations - can help maximise the return on time investment in futures thinking by:

  • sharing information;
  • sharing unique perspectives on the same issue;
  • sharing trends and forecasts;
  • co-creating potential futures;
  • challenging each others’ assumptions;
  • collectively making sense of the opportunities and challenges that futures work presents.

Approach

A programme of activity closely aligned to the FAN Club schedule will include:

  • Attendance at each of the next three FAN Club meetings;
  • Making observations and holding 1-1 discussions with participants;
  • Seeking FAN Club member support in the completion of a Collaboration Health Check survey then analysing the feedback;
  • Conducting stakeholder / practitioner interviews on their experience of collaboration in futures work;
  • Analysing the feedback gained through interviews;
  • Creating a “live” record of feedback via a blog and a report; and
  • Preparing a final report to include participant / stakeholder observations and my own observations and recommendations.

It will be important to base the work on the real experiences of colleagues - as futures thinking practitioners - so that we can gain a sense of the role collaboration does or could play in effective futures work.

My expectation is that this work will answer some questions but will also pose more, but in doing so will raise a number of issues that are pertinent to how practitioners can progress their futures thinking work and their collaborative working practice.

Plan

Here is the plan of activity we have developed:

If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave a comment to this post or email me directly.