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Home » Teams

The building blocks of collaboration

Submitted by on Monday, 12 May 2014One Comment

‘Collaboration’ is a word used a lot in companies these days – yet few professionals find it easy to articulate exactly what it is.

There’s a sense collaboration has something to do with teamwork, but even our concept of what a team is can be quite confused. In our technological age, where the word seems to embrace just about any interaction, human or digital, the cloudiness only gets thicker.

This post hopes to demystify some of the confusion around collaboration, and helps you get clear on the building blocks you need to put in place for collaboration to work.

The building blocks of collaboration

Some of you may be familiar with Himmelman’s model for collaboration. This is best explained as a series of ‘building blocks’ that need to be built, for effective collaboration to happen. Have a look:

Collaboration

The first stage is that of information exchange. Himmelman describes this as ‘networking’, informal and non-committal.

The second stage is where participants may decide to work together in some way (for example on a project). We enter the co-ordinating phase. This involves greater ‘time and trust’ commitment. Trust levels can remain low. Individuals work on ‘altering activities’ of some kind, though often with little or no emotional commitment.

The third stage is that of co-operation. During this stage, resources begin to be shared. These may include money, staff, physical property, or clients. Trust levels here are necessarily higher (at least at the outset).

The fourth stage can truly be called that of collaboration. What’s different here is that risks, responsibilities, and rewards are shared. Longer term goals are also defined. There is a sense of partnership.

All well and good. But how about the fifth stage or building block in our graphic?

Engagement is when partners think not only of themselves but also other people that may not be present at the table. Engagement is when multi-party benefit is sought. More importantly, it’s when the relationships between the parties moves from a purely tangible and physical dimension to an intangible and emotional one. (A definition of engagement can be found here).

For example, if two people in a company think only of their mutual benefit, they may be collaborating but not engaging. But if they consider other departments and stakeholders in their dealings, they start out on the path to engagement.

Engagement is also commitment at an emotional level. It builds trust far beyond the meeting room.

If you’re interested in collaboration…

If you’re interested in collaboration, have a look at our Five Star Teams programme. This 2 day workshop gives you and your team all you need to develop collaborative, engaging, and high performing teams…

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