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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Collaboration Techniques for Moving Ideas & Decisions Forward

Collaboration and teamwork make an important contribution to the success of business initiatives like quality improvement, product development or customer service. To create effective teamwork across your organization, you need to break down any departmental barriers to collaboration so that you can draw on the best people. You need to set clear objectives and define working relationships so that members can work as a cohesive team, and you must provide tools that support efficient collaboration.

Team collaboration and decision-making works best when everyone is involved in the process, from brainstorming ideas to implementing the decision. Here are some tips for moving decisions forward in a team-meeting environment.

1. Keep the group small; five to nine members is optimal.

2. Announce the meeting(s) in advance. Define the issues to be discussed and invite attendees to arrive prepared with ideas and possible solutions. (On the whole, individuals are better at suggesting ideas, while groups are better at evaluating them.)

3. Use a “round robin” format to collect ideas. Go around the table and ask people to each mention the ideas or solutions they’ve developed. List on a screen, flipchart or white board. (This format is used to gather information and does not allow criticism or evaluation.)

4. Encourage people to discuss the idea with the group, not with the originator. Once the idea is on the table, it’s a group issue, which is discussed by the whole group.

5. Rephrase criticism in a positive way. Rather than saying, “We did that and it failed;” try “What could we do differently this time to make that solution work?” or “Have our circumstances changed so that the solutions could work now?”

6. Ask for positive remarks from negative people. If a lot of negative comments are made, list them on a flipchart in one column (con). Create a positive column (pro) next to the con column, and ask the people who made negative comments to suggest a positive comment. This approach reduces defensiveness, broadens thinking, and encourages people to look for solutions rather than focus on the problems.

7. Set an example by not defending your idea. Let other team members defend it. Remind the team that this is a group issue. If necessary, clarify or explain your idea in more detail, but don’t defend it. People will tend to follow the example you set.

Collaboration and team work create an environment that allows the collective knowledge, resources and skills of each team member to flourish. When people work together they can complete tasks faster by dividing the work to people of different abilities and knowledge. Teamwork can lead to better decisions, products, or services.

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