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  • Writer's picturesabina strachan

Trying to collaborate but faced with new challenges? Try regrouping and flipping your approach...

What can you do if you face unforeseen challenges that could derail your collaborative project? ‘Lou’ and ‘Jamila’ are college lecturers working as part of a larger group to create a new programme. They have learned good collaborative practices and the new project starts well. In this blog we find out how to maintain motivation and make progress with fewer resources and when faced with new demands.

Lou and Jamila were working in a group of five to design, create and deliver a new CPD programme. The project set-up had gone well as they helped ensure that the whole group understood and bought into collaborative principles – everyone agreed to be open to challenge and be willing to move from a position, issues would be resolved together using a facilitative approach, and everyone had equal decision-making power.

At the start of the project, the group had come together to brainstorm the programme focus, identify target audiences, agree the best approach to design, creation and delivery, and next steps. However, during the creation phase two unplanned changes occurred: 1) one of the group, Craig, became ill and it wasn’t clear whether he’d be able to rejoin the group in the short-term; and 2) the Marketing Team wanted a more in-depth programme overview and taster sessions within a shorter timeframe to promote the programme and increase advance bookings.

Adhering to the principles agreed at the outset, the remaining group of four – Lou, Jamila, Zach and Yuan – came together to explore the issues and work out how to resolve them.

As the whole team had shared regular updates and information, and draft and completed resources in an online space, they were able to get a good sense of where Craig had got to. They then brainstormed ideas for minimum requirements for the overview and taster sessions that would meet Marketing Team needs.

They understood that to meet the original project timeframe and produce additional materials, they would need a) additional time resources, or b) to reduce the scope of what they needed to produce at this stage of the project.

They agreed that:

  1. Zach would review the materials created by the whole team to date, and prioritise which needed to be finished by the original deadline and to what standard in order to provide sufficiently clear outputs for the majority of the intended content;

  2. Jamila would look at ways some of the content could be streamlined or produced using alternative methods that would be more time-efficient;

  3. Lou would establish whether any of the team members could re-plan their workloads or find additional cover to enable them to take on more of the project for a period of time; and

  4. Yuan would liaise with Marketing colleagues to negotiate what was wholly necessary given the more limited resources currently available and go through options to minimise the time they needed to meet the request.

The group approached problem-solving collaboratively and had spent time setting up the project in a transparent way to make it easier to find solutions as issues arose.

Going forward, the group could try cooperation and coordination as useful and valid alternative approaches to group-working which can dovetail well with collaborative approaches. For example, if one of the group was able to find more time for the project, then that person could also take on a coordinating role and lead the group through the process of completing the resource creation stage.

The next suite of blogs will focus on how to develop different collaborative skills that will help you become a star collaborator!


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