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Monday 8 July 2019

Secrets of successful collaboration: 23. manage the process of collaborative growth

As a collaboration develops, it will usually grow in the following three ways:
  1. In size
  2. In complexity
  3. In influence
To ensure a collaboration's continued and increasing effectiveness (and the ongoing development of meta-relationships) the above types of growth need to be carefully managed.

Here are the three main issues to address when managing the growth in size of a collaboration:
  1. Moving from co and close locations to multi and wide spread locations.
  2. Gaining additional partners, stakeholders and beneficiaries.
  3. Managing the increasing number of boundaries between different spaces and different times.
Over the lifespan of a collaboration, a small and tightly knit group of partners working together in the same space or very nearby each other can develop into a large and diverse group of partners working at different times to each other in multiple spaces and widely spread locations.

Whilst growing in size in the above ways, a collaboration needs to safeguard and enhance its effectiveness and the quality of its relationships by ensuring it maintains a village feel and structure.      

The characteristics of a village feel and structure are as follows:
  • Villages are composed of small distinct units: houses, pubs, churches, church halls, shops, doctors' surgeries, dentists, community halls, police stations, libraries, post offices, etc.
  • Each unit has a clear and distinct function.
  • In addition to the community halls mentioned above, there is usually common access to some other type of resource: common ground that villagers can use for grazing of cattle, or greens that villagers can use for social events, etc.
  • The above units and common resources are, by design or natural development of villages over the years, positioned for ease of access and inter-communication.
  • There is an informal feel and family structure within and to some extent between each of the above units.
The small size of the above units, the access to common resources, and the informal feel and family structure of day-to-day village life all combine to encourage an emphasis upon  relationship building and making progress through mutual understandings.

A collaboration can adopt and adapt the above village characteristics to ensure its growth in size is beneficial rather than problematic. By keeping its internal teams small, ensuring these teams are given distinct identities and functions, and giving each team a recognisable place that is accessible (either through physical proximity, regular face-to-face interactions or, as the collaboration grows in size, the supportive use of technology), a collaboration will encourage and maintain the informal family feel and interdependent structure that supports communication and cohesiveness and the development of meta-relationships.
Providing commons within a collaboration (i.e., space and resources jointly owned by and available to partners) will encourage partners to maintain and reinforce a sense of shared ownership and joint responsibility. This will help safeguard a growing collaboration's village feel and sense of community.

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