Management Matters: How Collaboration Succeeds

What is a collaboration? It’s what happens when two or more people or teams, or organizations work together to achieve a goal.

What is effective collaboration? When it works well, collaboration can obtain greater resources, recognition, and reward when facing competition for scarce resources.

In today’s workplaces, almost no one is trained to excel in all of the disciplines needed to complete a project successfully alone, so workplace collaborations clearly make a lot of sense, intellectually and financially.

Yet – they often are more problematic than successful. 

Some helpful collaboration guidelines:

• Go Slow To Go Fast

• Rather than jump in and assume that everyone involved understands what makes a successful collaboration, if you hope to work well with your fellow collaborators, certain parameters need to be discussed and defined up front:.

• Be clear about responsibilities and timelines: who is going to do what and when they will do it.

• Develop a shared understanding about how resources will be provided and identify who will supply resources needed for certain aspects of the project study; even who will write the paper and be first author.

• Define how information will be communicated and how conflicts will be resolved when they occur.

Flexibility is Essential

• Articulate clearly what you expect of people when that is required.

• Define how you will all keep the lines of communication open. Understand people have preferred way of receiving communication and make sure that everyone knows how communication will be handled: meetings, phone, e-mail, or even letters, and communicate frequently.

Communication is Critical

• Tell your collaborators what you are finding and learning and ask what their results are.

• Share data as well as problems. Rather than ask ‘who needs to know this?’ ask yourself ‘who might want to know this?”

• Don’t assume silence is golden (and all is well). Periodic updates keep everyone in the loop.

It’s Not About You – It’s About Us

• Let go of idea ‘ownership.’ Rather than being concerned about whose idea it was, or who did what aspect of the project, the hallmark of effective collaboration is all about sharing in the outcome.

If you are involved in a successful collaboration, the people involved with you take pride in the part they play and understand that your successful outcome cannot be achieved by any one person. If aby one thinks they can go it alone and treat their fellow collaborators as if that’s the case, they just may find that the next time they will be on their own.

Joni Daniels is Principal of Daniels & Associates, a management training and development consulting practice that specializes in developing human resources in the areas of leadership and management training, interpersonal effectiveness and efficiency, skill- building, and organizational development interventions. With over 25 years of experience, she is a sought after resource for Fortune 500 clients, professional organizations, higher education, media outlets and business publications. Joni can be reached at

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