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Monday 1 July 2019

Secrets of successful collaboration: 22. identify the signs of the key symptom of ineffective collaborative processes and address its cause

Always be on the lookout for the key symptom of ineffective collaborative processes: overcompensation. Overcompensation, in the following three forms, can seriously hinder or prevent the development of collaborative meta-relationships:

1. Hyper-vigilance

This manifests as excessive monitoring, checking and box ticking that makes partners feel they are not trusted (that someone is always looking over their shoulders). This will mire a collaboration within burdensome meetings and bureaucratic processes that can often slow and sometime stop activity and progress.
2. Redundant communication and activity 

This will manifest alongside and within hyper-vigilance but is differentiated from it by an excessive focus upon repetition: repetitive checking and repetition of processes, with each repetition done by a different partner; excessive restatements of a collaboration's rules and directives; sending and receiving excessive emails about the same thing. 

3. Blind carbon copying

The unnecessary use of the blind carbon copy can be particularly corrosive to collaborative processes and the relationships they support. This is because it introduces an unhealthy element of stealth to a collaboration's activities and processes that insidiously erodes trust by creating an environment of uncertainty and suspicion. 

Those sending blind carbon copy emails will inevitably have their perceptions and behaviour affected by what they write; those receiving blind copy emails will be similarly affected by what they read. This will lead to people interacting with each other according to the scripts of hidden missives rather than the visible "here and now" stimulus of each other's words and behaviour. 

People will sense this inconsistency between what is being said and done and what is being thought and perceived, and they will become uncertain of each other's motives and actions. These uncertainties will cause misunderstandings, which will increase hyper-vigilance and redundant communication (consequently inflaming the overall symptom of overcompensation).

The approaches described in the previous blogs of this series will, of course, help address the three intimately related causes of the above symptom: lack of understanding, lack of mutual support, and lack of trust between partners.

Doing the following three things will be particularly effective:

1. Creating opportunities for face-to-face in the same space interaction that encourages informality, openness, and the spontaneous sharing and discussion of problems and ideas.

Bringing partners together (well away from the formal meeting room environment)  encourages them to relax, mingle, get to know each other personally, and begin sharing their thoughts and feeling and problems and ideas. This enhances mutual understanding and appreciation between partners and helps partners feel comfortable enough to begin relying upon and trusting each other. As partners increasingly rely upon and trust each other, they will decreasingly engage in hyper-vigilance, redundant communication and blind carbon copying.
2. Co-creating and co-owning collaborative processes and practices.

Jointly creating and agreeing collaborative approaches will achieve three important things: 1. it will increase transparency (partners will know why processes and practices have been put in place); 2. it will motivate partners to use the agreed collaborative processes and practices; 3. It will encourage partners to motivate each other to use agreed collaborative processes and practices. As transparency of processes and the motivation to use and encourage their use increases, partners' hyper-vigilance, redundant communication and blind carbon copying will decrease.  
3. Making informal understandings and ways of working explicit and clearly visible. 

Using the previously mentioned rich pictures and pictor analysis to make informal understandings and ways of working explicit and clearly visible will help partners describe and share their thoughts and feelings about working together. This will highlight assumptions, perceptions and beliefs (a significant number of which having been planted by blind carbon copy emails) that have been stealthily and often negatively influencing partners' decisions, actions and interactions. As explicitness and visibility of understandings and processes increases, partners' hyper-vigilance, redundant communication and blind carbon copying will decrease.

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