Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Slight change of plan for the February FAN Club meeting

By now you should have received your invitation to the FAN Club meeting on 25th February at the America Square Conference Centre. As you may recall our intention was to run a focus group on Collaboration in Futures Work at this meeting.

What we are now planning to do is offer a seminar discussion on collaborative working tools and how leaders can use them to develop strategic and futures skills, as one of four choices for part of the afternoon session.

I am very excited about leading this seminar and look forward to seeing you there.

If you want to contact me about this project then please do so.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Collaboration Health Checks - Definition of Collaborative Working Themes and Average Scores

I wanted to share the average scores from the completed Collaboration Health Checks, so far received. The information below includes the statements included in each collaborative working theme, sorted in ascending order of average response. The scores are included in square brackets at the end of each statement.

Remember the Collaboration Health Check asks respondents to indicate their level of agreement with 35 statements below by entering:

0 - don't know / not applicable;
1 - disagree strongly;
2 - disagree;
3 - neither agree or disagree ;
4 - agree; or
5 - strongly agree.

I have also taken this opportunity to share my definition of each of the five collaborative working themes used in the development of the Collaborative Working Profiles.

1. Collaborative Behaviours

The behaviours exhibited by the collaborating parties and required to support effective collaboration. The core behaviours are honesty; respect and mutuality and are applicable to both the formal and informal aspects of the relationship. Often, the informal or social aspects of collaboration are overlooked with the focus almost exclusively on the more formal contractual arrangements.
  • We regularly share the assumptions we hold about our partner(s), with our partner(s). [2.8]
  • We are clear about the assumptions we hold and the facts we know about our potential partner(s). [3.1]
  • When we are working with our partner(s) it "feels" like an equitable relationship. [3.3]
  • We are honest with our partners(s) in giving feedback. [3.3]
  • When working with our partner(s) we are genuinely open to adopting ideas expressed by them. [3.5]
  • We are open to honest feedback from our partner(s). [3.7]
  • We are prepared to "give something up" in order to progress an opportunity to collaborate. [3.8]

2. Collaborative Working Process

The collaborative working process is a means by which participants can be guided through the different stages partners need to go through to deliver and effective collaboration. I advocate a four stage process of connecting to form relationships; contracting to set clear goals and guidelines; collaborating to deliver the objectives in the agreed manner and closing to review success and agree next steps.

  • We always seek to review and where necessary revise our contract with our partner(s) during our collaboration. [2.7]
  • We always review the collaboration's performance against mutually agreed objectives. [3.0]
  • When working collaboratively, we co-create the design of the initiative with our partner(s). [3.1]
  • We and our partners are jointly accountable for project governance. [3.2]
  • We formally close off a collaborative initiative with the full agreement of our partner(s). [3.3]
  • During collaborative work, we take collective responsibility - with our partner(s) - for maintaining our focus on achieving our mutually agreed goals. [3.4]
  • When we review collaboration we seek to learn from the experience, rather than attributing blame for things that went wrong. [3.5]

3. The Value of Collaboration

The value of collaboration is more complex than other forms of business relationship. We do have to think about the value that will accrue to us, our own organisation, our partners and their organisation and possibly our joint stakeholders too. Benefits can be “softer” including improving / new relationships, reputation; or more commercially focused things like revenues, cost reductions, access to skills and capabilities not existing in your own organisation.

  • When we collaborate we are clear about the benefit(s) that will accrue to our shared stakeholders as well as to our own stakeholders. [3.3]
  • When we collaborate we are clear about the level of investment we are required to make. [3.4]
  • We acknowledge and value "difference" as a source of creativity and innovation when working with other stakeholders. [3.4]
  • When we collaborate, we are clear about the potential benefit(s) that will accrue to our partner(s). [3.5]
  • When we collaborate we are clear about the level of investment required from our partner(s). [3.6]
  • When we collaborate, we are clear about the potential benefit(s) that will accrue to us. [3.9]
  • When we work collaboratively, we create new possibilities that would not have been created by working alone. [4.4]

4. Engagement

Interacting with colleagues in our own and our partner’s organisation in an open and transparent fashion to share ideas, insights intentions and co-create the collaborative working initiative is critical. Demonstrating a commitment to collaborative working through deed as well as words builds trust between the collaborating parties.

  • When agreeing the activities and resourcing for a collaborative project, we also explicitly address "how" we will work together. [2.9]
  • We regularly engage colleagues from different departments in our own organisation to gain their perspective on our collaborative work. [3.5]
  • Colleagues across our organisation understand the value and challenges presented by working collaboratively. [3.6]
  • We regularly share the insights gained from our own work with other interested stakeholders. [3.7]
  • When collaborating, we engage with our partner(s) at an early stage to ensure we incorporate their thoughts and ideas. [3.7]
  • We value and embrace the challenge presented by seeking an external stakeholder's input to and perspective on our work. [3.9]
  • Our relationship with our partner(s) continues to develop as we work together. [4.4]

5. Relationship Development

Relationship Development is the act of developing a longer-term association between two or more people and based on regular business interactions. As trust develops, participants in the relationship will become more open to influence and to be influenced by the other party. Informal interactions become as important as formal ones and avenues of communication are always open.

  • In the early stages of engaging with potential partners, we share our "wants and offers" with them. [3.1]
  • We start a collaborative working initiative by paying particular attention to our relationship with our partner(s). [3.3]
  • Avenues of communication are always open with our partner(s) ensuring we resolve issues that arise effectively and efficiently, while we collaborate. [3.5]
  • Our relationships tend to be better with our partner(s) when we have collaborated on an initiative than they were before. [3.8]
  • We tend to have a good existing relationship with our stakeholders before we collaborate on a particular initiative. [3.9]
  • In reviewing our experience of a collaborative initiative, we explore the possibility of future collaboration with our partner(s). [3.9]
  • We are clear about the value to us of forming relationships with other stakeholders. [4.9]

Don’t forget, if you haven’t taken part so far (or have any other questions) but would like to, just drop me an email. If you have any comments, why not add them to this blog?

Friday, 16 January 2009

The Collaboration Health Check - Further Observations

A belated happy new year to you all, I hope you had an enjoyable and restful break. Having said that, for me at least the memory is already fading fast!

I did promise that I would continue to work on sharing my initial observations about the feedback I received from the completed Collaborative Working Health Checks. After receiving a number of additional health checks to consider I have now completed an initial review, but don’t forget; if you still want to submit a Collaboration Health Check and / or want to take part in the Inquiry Interviews let me know.

Consolidated Collaboration Health Check feedback

When I first started to consolidate the feedback I created a single profile that showed collectively, FAN Club members erred toward agreement that their collaborative working practice paid attention to all the attributes required for successful joint working.

As ever, the devil is in the detail and I was immediately drawn to the highest (Relationship Development) and lowest (Collaborative Working Process) ranked attributes. These collaborative working themes were also the ones with the greatest variance between minimum and maximum scores (Relationship Development) and the smallest variance (Collaborative Working Process).

Relationship Development

Feedback suggests that colleagues agree strongly that, “we are clear about the value to us of forming relationships with other stakeholders”. Agreement was less clear about having good quality relationships in place ahead of collaboration; about exploring further possible collaboration as part of the review of existing work; and the assumption that relationships improve through collaborative working.

But there was neither agreement nor disagreement with regard to the statements about paying specific attention to the relationship with potential partners and being clear about expressing wants and offers at the start of a collaborative engagement.

I would surmise that collectively we are clear about what’s in it for us, but reluctant to be truly transparent with potential partners, perhaps because of a desire to be the dominant partner and not prepared to give something (control?) up.

Collaborative Working Process

Collaboration happens; that’s clear from the completed Collaborative Working Health Checks. But feedback suggests that there is little agreement or disagreement with the statements around Collaborative Working Process, bringing into question the robustness with which collaborative working arrangements are adopted.

Collectively, we disagree that, “we always seek to review and where necessary revise our contract with our partner(s) during our collaboration.” Does the process we adopt provide scope for re-contracting? Interestingly, this statement attracted the lowest score of the exercise.

Highest scores indicating some agreement were attributed to taking collective responsibility - with our partner(s) - for maintaining our focus on achieving our mutually agreed goals and when reviewing a collaborative initiative, seeking to learn from the experience rather than attributing blame for things that went wrong.

Other research

Other research that I completed last year in healthcare suggests that it is the relationship between very few individuals that drive successful collaboration. Process - such as it is - tends to govern financial approval or allocation of resources in both organisations, and does not extend to effective assessment, qualification of opportunities and contracting. So, what are the potential disadvantages of this more informal way of working?

Analysis by stakeholder group

As well as looking at the information by collaborative working theme I was motivated to analyse the feedback by stakeholder group, given high scores attributed to the statements by colleagues working in consultancy compared to the Public Sector. In fact, the consultants scored the health check statements almost 20% above the Public Sector colleagues. I wondered why that might be, so here’s my hypothesis.

Many consultants claim to take a collaborative approach to client work, but is that truly collaboration or partnership? Or is it an inquiry based approach that helps the consultant get close to their client, develop a detail understanding of the client issue which in turn supports the development of client focussed solutions? Perhaps it depends on what definition of collaborative working you work to.

For example, when I think of collaboration I imagine a way of working between two or more parties which aims to achieve a shared goal that would be difficult to achieve alone. Collaboration is based on the sharing of rewards, resources, responsibilities and risks and respects the fundamental differences each part contributes.

Here are the consolidated collaborative working profiles for:

The Public Sector


Next steps

  • I will make the consolidated feedback detail available shortly. So you can view the average scores for each statement with the five collaborative working themes.
  • I have now conducted a number of inquiry interviews with the focus much more specifically on collaboration in futures work and will shortly start to work through these and pull out the main themes as part of an interim review of this phase.
  • As we head towards the next FAN Club meeting in February, look out for news about how you can get involved in this project. There will be an opportunity to contribute at the meeting in London and you can still submit a Collaboration Health Check, and take part in the Inquiry Interviews.
If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave a comment to this post or better still email me directly.