Wednesday 13 June 2007

Collaboration challenges and success factors

I was reminded by Thomas Purves' post on collaboration (where he presents three factors for effectiveness: opportunity, willingness and efficiency) of a training package I once put together about issues in managing remote teams.

In this training package I presented a couple of models includes two that addressed similar concerns. This first addressed the challenges of collaboration in remote teams:

  1. Willingness to collaborate (driver by a combination of necessity and opportunity);
  2. That all the people involved have the right collaboration skills; and
  3. Having access to and selecting the right information and communication technologies (ICT).

I then used a another three point model to talk about the critical success factors for creating a sustainable virtual team:

  1. Control - does the team have a clear sense of direction and progress towards their objective; 
  2. Enabling Resources - this includes providing people with time to collaborate, funding for travel when required, people to provide support and also the right work environment and facilities, etc; and
  3. Communications - extra effort is required to supplement the social capital that is created naturally in a co-located team through a combination of formal and informal communication.

Underlying these challenges and critical success factors was the point that all these issues that can be managed, but often required forward planning (through a start-up or refresh process for existing remote teams). Some of these ideas are reflected in my article looking at HR's role in virtualised organisations - and in that respect I don't agree with Purves' assertion that:

"Traditionally IT has focused on doing a really good job at #3 (not that there isn’t still room for improvement in this area alone). Meanwhile, the softer human elements of 1,2 has been left to the fuzzy world of HR."

Unfortunately I've never seen HR take ownership of this issue at a tactical level, which was one of the drivers for putting this training together in the first place. BTW The training package itself was delivered as teletraining, the idea being that the training approach in itself was designed to show that with a bit of planning it was still possible to achieve a quality training outcome using just a slide deck and a teleconference.

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