Collaboration requires five strategies to be successful, online these strategies must be even more intentional. The elements required for organizations and individuals to collaborate are learning how to: Build Trust, Bridge Cultures, Resolve Conflict, Strengthen Communication and Cultivate Collaborative Leadership.
“Large scale impact depends on increasing cross-sector alignment and learning among many organizations”Kramer, 012
Within online collaboration between organizations require intentionally understanding why people or agencies do what they do. Asking the questions and understanding people’s actions help bridge the differences in behaviours.
Why do some people or agencies keep their cameras off in meetings?
Is it important to one agency to only book 45-minute meetings so that there are breaks in between Zoom meetings?
Intentionally asking questions and providing opportunities to develop collaborative expectations is an important element to design within meetings.
Building trust is another important element that requires time and effort. Getting to know each other is an important aspect of building relationships across agencies, especially when we are working within the online context.
If organizations continue to work individually, when they are intending to work together, this could be an indication that they don’t trust each other, or trust has not been established yet.
Do not skip the round table introductions, so people can build trust and therefore foster more impactful working relationships. Another way to foster collaborative working relationships is to plan for activities in small groups.
Resolving conflict is essential for good collaboration to work. If two people don’t get along, it can become a barrier for two organizations to grow referral pathways or collaborative solutions.
The first step to conflict resolution may be accepting challenges as an opportunity for learning and growth. Especially in a stressful context and a world pandemic where many people are working from home, sharing internet and space, giving grace is a good first step.
Online if we are able to turn on our camera, smile and actively listen to each other this is a good step towards preventing conflict in the first place. Training can often assist with the resolving of conflict, 26% of the education that collaborative projects in Niagara were in response to an issue.
26% of the education that collaborative projects in Niagara were in response to an issue.
Collaborative communication online requires intentional actions.
From the literature review and my experience, communication is one of the most important aspects of successful collaboration. Clear communication is an important part of ensuring that everyone involved understands the interagency boundaries, policies, procedures, client referral pathways, and interagency management with frontline exchanges.
Regardless of the learning topic, effective communication is an element that should never be overlooked.
Organizations are made up of individuals with different learning and communication styles and needs. Sometimes people don’t hear the information the first time, or there is a new person in a role and the onboarding didn’t include all the details.
Another finding from my research was that 31% (16) of survey participants indicated they would have liked to have learned what the collaborative project goals were. Especially in the online context, intentionally planning for opportunities to communicate in a variety of ways, can produce positive results.
31% (16) of survey participants indicated they would have liked to have learned what the collaborative project goals were.
Leadership is what can bring everything together.
“Leadership is the mechanism that makes things happen in a collaboration”Vangen & Huxham, 2003
It requires a balance of power, control, and consensus between various partners. Leading a collaborative project takes a special skill because you are bridging cultures, and potentially a variety of ways of doing things.
Ensuring that everyone’s interests are being acknowledged, understood and considered is essential for moving forward with a positive and collaborative approach.
Bringing this all together can feel like putting together a puzzle, and especially online it may feel like a puzzle piece is missing. Intentionally planning for learning experiences and opportunities to get to know each other can bridge organizational cultures and build trust. Communication must be ongoing and consider a variety of learning needs. As we grow leaders through experience and learning which grows capacity, buy-in by participants is also essential.
“Effective adult learning occurs when the topic is important to the learner and when learning combines reflection and concrete experience”Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council, 2008
Opportunities to each have a voice and the intention to listen and learn means that everyone will grow together. Just as the article by Cortez, Nussbaum, Woywood, and Aravena (2009) is titled, often individuals and organizations must learn to collaborate by collaborating.
This article was shared with Leadership Niagara by Patricia Regier and was originally posted on her blog. Patricia Regier is the founder of Regier Educational Services. As a Learning Experience Designer, she is passionate about helping people create engaging and meaningful training.
Patricia has twenty years of experience creating and facilitating workplace and community education, along with facilitating collaborative partnerships. Her Master of Adult Education’s Capstone Thesis project was ‘How do we learn to collaborate’. This academic research included surveying and interviewing Niagara leaders. Statistics included in this article are from research conducted in 2015. Patricia is pleased to volunteer with Leadership Niagara’s Program Advisory Council.