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A perspective on collaboration mix

Cisco Employee

Mindset matters in leadership and performance whenever results are required.  As businessmen, we go through our days solving problems and seizing opportunities. How much collaboration is needed? valuable?

What is the right mix of personal accountability and collective collaboration to maximize productivity?

While there are many factors and variables in this equation, today I’m discussing the problem perspective.  What problem are you solving and what is your approach/perspective?

GOOD:     Reactive

BETTER:     Proactive

BEST:         Predictive

NIRVANA:     Prescriptive

I use a 4 point maturity scale to try and keep my life in order, projects under control, and customers happy.  I will readily admit that I developed this view from my experience as a father of 4. Every day is different, but on the whole, the more I can stay on the upper end of the scale.. the better off we tend to be. This isn't rocket science, but it sure helps to be reminded regularly.

Level 1:  Reactive -  We all spend a lot of time here. Dealing with the outcomes of our own work and others.  

Key tools:  Instant Messaging, Telephone, Mature refined processes, Clear escalation paths, Triage capabilities.

Level 2: Proactive - This is where the biggest bang for the buck comes in most project tactical activities. If resources and leadership can make the move to proactive planning, communicating, and ownership of risks and issues... operational issues reduce and change is immediate.

Key tools: Risk plans, Incident reviews, Single point accountability for collective plans, Flexible planning, Clear requirements and goals, Communication and Agreement on Conditions of Success.

Level 3: Predictive - As teams succeed in managing to a proactive perspective in tasks, communications, and risks.. Leaders begin to develop the capabilities to predict failure points based on analysis, experience, and test results.  Collaboration and diversity of perspective become critical as these exercises become dependant on broad expertise focused through an agreed upon decision model.  The idea is to predict and use risk management and communications to effectively control outcomes and maximize returns. 

Key tools: Key performance indicators, metrics, Instinct, Resource and Mgt experience, Creative role play and scenario analysis, Relationships and Trust among team members, Discussion forums, Brainstorm boards,

Level 4 Prescriptive - This is the holy grail of management success. We all want the ability to actually control and create conditions where our products will be received, purchased and loved.. from consulting services, to manufacturing and financial services. At the project level, it means achieving a level of awareness allowing for choice in execution. Traditionally this view is only relevant to the most senior executives, however... I would argue that with the advent of communications tools it is more likely to be possible at mid to lower levels in most organizations. Often called managing up, it involves design level thinking, a focus on solutions based outcomes and not just tasks/products. The reality is of course, that too much prescriptive planning tends to put you right back into the reactive modes. In the real world, behaviors and purchase cycles are just to difficult to manage for long.

Key Tools: TRUST,  Creativity, Disciplined, focused, discussion and communications among councils and stakeholders. Short term and long term targets, Understanding of consequences of failure, Healthy respect for risk and tools to quantify.

What does all this have to do with collaboration? Collaboration is required for predictive and prescriptive success and highly relevant for reactive and even proactive operations.  How would you describe your project teams and resources’ perspectives? 

As we adopt collaboration tools and modify our communications models from telephones, to UC, to “cloud based/twitteresque” models, we must be wary of the impact to our projects. This is yet another opportunity for diversity of perspective coupled with a disciplined approach. The tools are important, but considering the people and how they work is also key.

What problem are we solving for...? and in this case how have we always done it.. and how can we do it in the future? 

People, Process, Technology.... finding the right mix is key.

I'd love to hear about how you manage perspective and what your experience tells you about the right mix...