tales from the collaborative front

Its a whole new world with all sorts of new twisty things to work out – at work too.

So – this collaborative culture we’re promoting and developing – its new, and people are banging around the middle and the edges.

Case in point. We, in our englightenedness, have a system (that you will certainly hear more about soon) where it takes approximately 3 seconds to set up a community. The community has a participant list, a wiki, a discussion feed and can hold docs.

There’s a (small) team that built a community to support a specific goal. They’re experimenting and trying to fly under the radar. One member – a well meaning one to be sure – wants them to “open” the group to the wide world, especially the team we can call the “broad responsibilities” team.

So – are they being open and transparent? No. Is that wrong? Maybe not.

Who is your team?

Your team is the set of people with whom your goals are aligned.

This implies that you have different teams for different goals.

You also have your day to day team, the slightly broader stakeholders team, and the general wide world of potentially interested parties team. They are all legitimate, and good things come from each.

But is transparency and collaboration the same across all three teams? Should it be?

Is it legitimate to want to fly under the radar? Or is this inherently anti-collaborative? What is the purpose of collaboration, and how is it affected by this sort of thing?

These dramas and many more will fold and unfold as we go forward. The good news, is that we’re learning a lot. The bad news is that learning is sometimes, uh, eventful.

My gut feeling is that there’s a place for small, insulated teams to do some experimentation, but at some point the insulation should come off. Or even better – what if this team was visible to others, but only if they were searching for a relevant term, tag or person – a sort of need to know filter? This wouldn’t be hiding, but not explicitly inviting participation unless there’s a reason.

I think at the very least its a great opportunity to dig into the value prop of collaboration a little deeper, and see what emerges.

Ok – half of the people involved are going to read this, so fire at will…



  1. A few thoughts…

    Not all collaborations succeed. If Lennon and MacCartney were micromanaged, we would never have heard of them. Put a couple of good and motivated developers in a room with a problem to solve and they will shout a lot but invariably work out a good solution. However, if you put the CEO in the room with them, then they’ll likely be very careful what they say and true collaboration will be stifled. As a developer and a manager of a team of developers I have come to realize that it is my job to shelter my team from unnecessary distractions and let them focus on building great products.

    Secondly, small teams in the same physical location, that trust each other and share common ground collaborate better and are more creative.

    Third, good collaboration results in something valuable being produced. The ultimate test is to measure the output.

  2. jon – I’ve been thinking about your comments. Basically, the problem of the president participating is that the team doesn’t trust the president. They feel the need to be perfect – not transparent in front of her.

    these issues are really about how the culture works in the group. the key to the collab group is to trust each other enough – and in a larger org, its hard to have full trust across the entire org at first. also – sometimes too many cooks just dilute the stew. as was happening in our discussion earlier today.

    so different groups at different stages need more/less participation from stakeholders and generally interested parties. transparency is not always evenly distributed (like the future).

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