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  • Writer's picturesabina strachan

How do you break through barriers to collaborate? Part 2

Collaborating when you don't operate in a collaborative culture and with people who are inexperienced collaborators are key challenges many of us face. Don't give up! Here are two more strategies that will help you overcome these hurdles.

You operate in an environment where collaborative culture is not the norm and people are unfamiliar or wary of the method of working. You've read Part 1 of this blog and 1. managed your own expectations about what can be achieved and 2. thought carefully about what you should seek to collaborate about.

Now it's time for two more strategies to help you collaborate successfully in tough circumstances, let's find out how to choose your collaborators wisely and modify your approach:

When choosing what to collaborate about, it is important to observe and understand the mindset and motivations of your potential collaborators and let that influence your decision about where to begin.

The people we want to collaborate with might not be experienced collaborators or may have certain fixed ideas. People can develop and change their behaviours and effective collaboration can be facilitated. Where that is possible, then you need to build in time for appropriate training and development and/or take a more active role as facilitator.

Where positions are rooted, some people are simply not going to behave in a collaborative way as they will not be open to influence. You will then need to modify your approach and accept that you will not be working collaboratively for all or part of a process, that you will need to change the group dynamic, or that this is not the right project to try and pursue at this time.

4. Modify your approach

If you think that the desired outcome is still worth pursuing but that collaboration is not possible as a way of working then there are different approaches you can take.

  • Use a different process

The group that needs to come together to achieve the desired outcomes might need to be led by an individual or individuals. They keep hold of the desired purpose, coordinate, ensure that the group is cooperating and facilitate good practice. A leader can choose to change the group dynamic, and should seek to do so if a group member is behaving in a way that could disrupt achieving the intended outcomes.

  • Modify the group

'Changing the group dynamic' doesn't automatically mean excluding certain individuals. There are often good reasons to remain inclusive, e.g. because of an individual's skillset or ability to influence. An option is to change the balance of the group by widening it out to include more collaborative individuals.

  • Transition in and out of a collaborative way of working

It may be that a more familiar method is a good place to start to help build trust and can still achieve desirable outcomes. At the same time collaborative ways of working can be introduced as development activities. These methods can then be implemented for a key stage that would benefit from this approach e.g. ideas generation, or where you are more likely to achieve buy-in to a new way of working, e.g. where there are fewer perceived risks.

So, managing your own expectations, carefully selecting what you want to achieve through collaboration, who to work with, and being flexible with your approach, are four strategies to try when collaboration as a way of working may challenge accepted practice.

How do you steer clear of more collaboration pitfalls? The next blog sets out top tips from hard-won lessons!

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