Overcoming the five factors that complicate peer collaboration
In her most recent webinar, “Practical Strategies for Collaborating with Peers”, Janet Salmons shared her experience in collaborative projects telling the audience that “collaboration with peers is different from collaboration with a peer. It’s complicated.” The larger the group, the more complicated the factors affecting collaboration become.
Regardless, according to Salmons, the sooner that these five common factors are identified, the sooner they can be addressed, and the potential damage they can cause is more likely to be avoided. So, what are these five common factors that complicate peer collaboration?
When collaborators have different purposes for the collaboration, the results produced are not based on a single focus. It is important to ensure that all collaborators are together for the same reason (or at the very least can focus on the same goal). With collaborations ranging from voluntary to mandatory participation, Salmons notes, “purpose can get lost in a maze of distractions and shifting priorities”.
Leadership comes in a variety of forms – from a top-down approach to shared leadership teams. Regardless of style or approach, it is necessary to identify the leadership structure and how decisions will be made when collaborating with others. While this can be challenging among peers, it is essential to coordinating efforts and making effective decisions.
Trust is something that develops over time. In cases where collaborators are more familiar with one another, greater certainty in the ability of their team to perform as expected can be an advantage. In newer teams, however, trust may need to be placed in the leaders, stakeholders, or process itself until peer to peer trust can be established. Regardless, to avoid issue, all collaborators have to be trusted to fulfill their individual commitment to the collaboration.
As Salmons notes, “Communication can solve or add problems.” Effective communication in a collaboration relies on being present and agreeing upon when and how communication will be maintained among the participants. According to Salmons, “We have more ways to communicate today, but there are still people behind the keyboards – people who don’t complete what they commit to do, don’t respond to our emails, or miss important deadlines.”
Speaking of keyboards, technology can make collaboration soar…or crash, according to Salmons. Although critical to our communication efforts, technology in itself adds complexity to the collaborative process. It’s important to align technology choices with the comfort and skill of the individual participants.