Team efforts are great – ideas from multiple participants can flow in abundance, but there is a fine line between a focused meeting of minds and an aimless brainstorming session. Knowing how to pull it all together is a skill on its own, but it’s key to making your collaboration sessions end with an actionable result.
As a collaboration facilitator, you want to set your team up for success and make it time well spent. Here are some tips for refining your collaboration process so it leads to clearer, more constructive outcomes:
Record your collaboration sessions in real time
It can be nearly impossible to remember all points that were raised and ideas exchanged during a collab session. Record keeping is a must, not only for the sake of organization but to recenter after conversations veer off into completely different lines of thought. People often forget discussion points, the decided outcome, or that great idea they had earlier, so take notes.
In order to remember everything that was covered, real-time record keeping is your best bet. You can either have everyone making changes to a group document, or assign one or two people to be the note takers. A shared document is a valuable tool that will be referenced numerous times until your next collaboration session.
Know when a project requires a group effort in the first place
If you’re the facilitator of a team meeting, really consider whether a project requires a group effort and choose participants wisely. Is there a balance of power and communication styles? Consider personality types, as well as how politics and position will influence the quality of your meeting.
As the familiar idiom goes “too many chefs in the kitchen spoil the broth” and it can become a problem in group brainstorming. If too many people are trying to control, influence, or work on something and you see the quality of your meetings suffering, then it’s time to cut back. There might be some projects that only require a few people coming together or discussing it over email. Leave group collaboration for the bigger, more complicated issues.
Make your project initiatives clear
Your team might have a general idea of why they’ve been brought together, but at the beginning of every session you should state what you hope to accomplish by the end. Don’t assume that everyone knows what the challenge is if you haven’t briefed them. This shared understanding will help direct your team’s focus the rest of the meeting.
To stay focused on project initiatives you can:
- Bring in your list of objectives to stay on track
- Use single targeted question or problems that help people to concentrate their ideas
- Keep it simple and focused
- Don’t guide to the solution – present questions in the form of challenges that need a solution
Consolidate all work-related information in one space
While it’s great to have so many ways of storing information today, such as email inboxes, cloud storage systems, messaging systems, etc., it’s not always great for collaboration. Dispersing work materials across too many platforms make it difficult to locate information when you need it. Did they send it through Skype, email, or was it Slack?
Part of great collaborative project management is being able to access all meeting notes, projects, reports, and other work-related assets in one spot. This ensures your team is updated with the latest information and decreases extra time spent tracking down missing pieces. Also, having immediate and easily accessible documents makes work discussions between team members so much smoother.
Make sure everyone is heard
Before you start outlining tasks and taking your ideas to action, make sure everyone is heard and you have the “green light.” Successfully carrying out the project will depend on good communication and a positive relationship between team members. Any festering resentments can come to a head in the midst of a project and cause problems. If someone has an issue, or decisions were made without first discussing with key members, it can lead to backtracking.
In larger groups, there will always be individuals who tend to lead or are more outspoken, and others who are less inclined to voice their input. While this is fine, just pay attention to group dynamics to make sure it truly stays collaborative and fair. Otherwise, it can discourage others from being active participants in future team projects.
Unless innovation, design, or another creative field is the heart of your business, you may not have the best collaboration habits or the appropriate space to come together when you need it. At iQ, we provide the space, and with some planning and making these tips part of your process, you can really improve your team’s collaborative outcomes.