How do I facilitate collaboration? Three top tips.
What’s your experience of trying to facilitate collaboration? What were the challenges you faced? Were you able to overcome them? In this blog ‘Pat’ shares her experience of facilitating a group who’d restarted the process of working collectively to achieve a specific outcome.
Pat was a new member of a makers collective. After observing the committee’s lack of progress with its expansion plans, she’d offered to facilitate a collaborative process with a smaller subgroup to create its expansion strategy. Pat had worked with the committee’s chair, ‘Viv’ to get everyone on board to give the new approach a try. The last blog described how Pat and Viv were able to get started.
Pat and Viv invited five people to join the subgroup who had diverse experiences and interests, were open to new ideas, and were keen for the collective to expand in the most effective way possible. Harnessing their energy and wide range of perspectives would help the strategy be relevant to the wider membership and an open approach would help them work collaboratively to find the best solutions.
Tip 1 – Asking for volunteers can sometimes mean that people with the loudest voices or particular agendas step forward and that can reduce the diversity of the group and its ability to work in a collaborative way. Invite diverse perspectives and people that are open to challenge to collaborate.
Pat developed a clear process for the subgroup to follow, starting with identifying the issues and focusing in on the key ones to resolve. Then they brainstormed ideas for solutions to address those key issues.
Tip 2 – Allowing people to generate thoughts (in this case issues and potential solutions) on their own first, helps avoid steering a group towards backing the first thoughts that are expressed or put forward the most strongly. Collaboration needs challenge, not consensus, to find the best solutions to difficult problems.
The group got off to a good start and made real progress. When it came to which possible solutions would be taken forward, which would be prioritised and how to resource them, there were differences of opinion. Pat introduced more objectivity to the process by asking the group to consider how each idea aligned with the expansion objectives and their deliverability.
Tip 3 – Differences of opinion are to be expected while working collaboratively. By ensuring everyone knows the ground rules of working collaboratively at the outset, reinforcing them when needed, and wrapping suitable processes around the approach, great solutions can come out of being encouraged to challenge and being open to influence.
Next time, we look at what changes Jacques and Michaela made to their policies, procedures and processes in their workplace to encourage a collaborative culture to flourish.