Effective Collaboration: Planning a Foundation of Success



When it comes to achieving the best results, effective collaboration in an organization is not just nice to have; it’s a critical element for success. By definition, collaboration happens when people work together. Applied to organizational goals, and strategic planning strategies, effective collaboration can take this to the next level by ensuring teams are not only aligned on objectives and working cooperatively, but also emotionally invested in the successful outcome of each project.

Stephen Covey advises us to “Begin with the end in mind." Taking the time up front to plan for ways in which teams can collaborate more effectively will establish a solid foundation for your project to build upon. Begin by planning—end with success!

Before you begin, here are five principles to help set you up for success.


Set the Stage

Setting the stage means that you’re establishing a foundation to create the desired outcome. Bringing your team together to establish a common goal is a great place to start. Depending on your project goals, a kickoff meeting can be the place where key contributors come together to understand the overall objectives, meet other team players, and start to mentally align with how their roles will contribute to the greater project outcome.  

Other helpful activities at this time can include defining a common language, gathering initial questions and concerns, and establishing a cadence and format for ongoing collaboration.

Strategic Planning Tips:

Immerse Yourself

As much as we’d all like teams to operate similarly across an organization, it’s more likely that they’ve established their own methodologies for collaboration. Before getting too far down the project path, it’s a good idea to immerse yourself in the inner workings of how your project team works individually, then establish the foundation of how you’ll work collectively.

Do you need to grant access to systems, consider time zones, or account for language barriers? Is everyone in the same physical location, or do you need to invest in remote technology? Identify gaps now to save time later.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

- George Bernard Shaw

Develop a Communication Strategy

Effective communication is a key project success factor. Don’t assume everyone on the team has the same style of communication or philosophy on when or what to communicate. Establish ground rules for how you and your team will stay connected. Is email the best channel? How about daily stand-up meetings? Or does your team prefer another method via a collaborative software? Regardless of channel, it’s always best to write it down. Document your agreed-upon communication method and be sure to share it with your team when necessary.

Next, define your cadence. Sometimes weekly meetings are all you’ll need. Other times you may need daily check-ins or even updates throughout the day. Projects change, as do the needs for communication. Starting off on the right foot creates an environment of trust and helps teams pivot as needed.

Designate clear communication owners. Ambiguity leaves room for confusion. Effective collaboration relies on trusting fellow teammates, and this step supports that foundation of trust.


Foster a Collaborative Environment

True collaboration happens when people feel empowered to provide open and honest input in a safe space. Teams should trust each other, knowing that even during times of disagreement all players have a vested interest in the successful outcome of the project. Encourage one another to view challenges from all sides, understanding that others may face obstacles in their departments that are unique to them.

Agree up front that if a meeting or individual discussion takes a turn that might be perceived as negative or unproductive, all parties will pause—take a time out—to regroup and come back with a fresh perspective. Plan how you’ll foster a collaborative environment from the start to ensure a smooth and effective process through to project end.

Succeed Together

Teams that work well together in a collaborative environment succeed together. Every role in the project is equally important in achieving the desired outcome. Plan to set this tone from the start to help shape your own collaborative environment. During regularly scheduled meetings, review progress and roadblocks together and help each other by brainstorming solutions. If the team feels a sense of collective responsibility for a project’s success, they are more likely to operate in a truly collaborative way.

Project success begins with a solid foundation, based on effective collaboration. Before you get started, plan for ways to promote and foster this within your team. And remember, a little planning goes a long way!

Share your collaboration tips and success stories in the comments below!