Top ten tips for collaborating

First of all, a warning. These tips are not the ten commandments of collaboration, they are guidelines. The only ones that can be taken as a given in any collaborative project are the first and the last. Most of the rest could be argued to be basic management principles.

  1. Don’t do it unless you have to! Collaborating is fraught with difficulty, and consumes a lot of resources. Unless there is genuine potential to gain collaborative advantage, it’s better to do something on your own.
  2. Budget a lot more time for the collaboration than you would otherwise expect.
  3. Don’t assume that the other party (or parties) have the same goals, values and objectives. Focus on your agenda, but be prepared to compromise.
  4. Build trust by starting with small, achievable tasks.
  5. Good communication is key: avoid jargon, strive for clarity, and seek clarification where required.
  6. Don’t assume that other organisations or individuals have the same work practices.
  7. Allow those managing the collaboration a degree of autonomy.
  8. Build trust by avoiding power plays where possible.
  9. Don’t just act as a director – be a facilitator.
  10. Assume that you cannot be wholly in control, and that the parties involved will be constantly changing, and use skill, energy, commitment, and continuous nurturing to achieve collaborative advantage.

(Source: Huxham and Vangen, 2005).

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