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  • sabina strachan

Want to work collaboratively, but past attempts didn’t work out? Try a mindset shift.


cartoon: person holding key titled 'mindset' to 'successful collaboration' door imagining different outcomes (c)how2glu


What can you do differently so that your next project is collaborative? In this blog ‘Lou’, a college tutor, wanted to work on upcoming programme development collaboratively and learn from a recent – and rather fraught – experience of groupwork. Rather than just ‘hoping’ it turns out better this time, Lou decides to take a fresh look at her own approach first.


Lou was relatively new to the college and wanted to impress. When working with her colleague Jamila to redesign the foundation course, Lou had been keen to put forward her own ideas, work to a fast pace, and ‘put her own stamp’ on the course content. Jamila had pushed for a more light-touch refresh of the existing content, making sure references were up-to-date, and restructuring it into a more digestible format. However, Lou had pressed on with her idea and rewrote several lessons into smaller chunks whilst Jamila checked the remainder and broke them down to follow the new format.


The resulting update was well-received, but Lou and Jamila had spent a lot of time talking about the best way to tackle the redesign and in the end had reached a compromise to use both of their approaches individually. Lou had struggled to get through the rewrite in the remaining time available and got through fewer lessons than she’d intended. At short notice, and close to the project deadline, Jamila undertook a rapid update of the remaining lessons. Lou felt that their relationship had become strained as a result and, if she was honest with herself, also wished that Jamila had offered to do some of the wholesale rewrites to help her out.


Now Lou would be working with Jamila again as part of a larger group to develop a new CPD programme. Armed with more understanding about what characterises a collaborative project, Lou realised that she hadn’t approached the foundation course redesign in a collaborative way.


Lou completed the ‘how2glu collaboration checklist’ as a way of reviewing her approach to the redesign project. It looked like this:

  1. Do you and your collaborators have a complex challenge and shared outcome that would benefit from diverse perspectives and new ideas? - Yes.

  2. Do you and your collaborators have diverse perspectives to contribute to the project? - Yes.

  3. Do you have collective responsibility to resolve issues, i.e. there’s no ‘project leader’? - Yes.

  4. Are you willing to let go of fixed ideas and be open to influence? - No.

  5. Is your collaborator willing to let go of fixed ideas and be open to influence? - No / don’t know.

If you answered ‘Yes’ to 1 and 2 then it makes sense to work in a collaborative way to achieve the shared outcome.

If you answered ‘Yes’ to 3, 4 and 5 then you and your collaborators are working collaboratively.


Lou decided to speak with Jamila to get her perspective on how the foundation course redesign had gone and discuss how they might set up the new CPD programme project differently. Jamila welcomed the chance to talk openly with Lou and try to work together in a more collaborative way.


Going forward, all group members needed to agree upfront that they would be open to new ideas and be willing to move from a position. At the outset they would also work out how they would co-facilitate resolution that focussed on what was in the best interests of the shared project outcomes.


Lou felt really positive and energised about the CPD programme project and ready to get started!


In the next blog, we revisit Lou and Jamila mid-project – how did they handle unexpected issues that could derail the project? Do they keep going on the original path, stop altogether or change direction completely? What did they consider as they made these challenging decisions? Come back to the glu blog to find out!