Collaboration can be a great experience for organizations and lead to all parties achieving their goals. Or, as I was reminded just this week, it can also be very frustrating. When organizations collaborate they share the risk, work and reward and can accomplish things they might not be able to otherwise. But, like any relationship it requires a great deal of up-front communication. That sentence cannot be overstated.
The communication needs to cover not just what is going to be done together but everything from start to finish and what comes next. Again, like a relationship, these conversations can be tough. At the beginning both parties are typically excited and like each other or at least see a benefit from working together. However, as the collaboration moves on and the real work begins the excitement tends to wane a bit.
Discussion of the following points from the beginning is essential for the success of the project:
• Why do you want to work together?
• Each party may want to think about this separately before any agreement has been formalized, and then discuss it together. Understanding why two groups want to work together will help make that collaboration much easier.
• What resources or skills can each party bring to the table?
• What will a successful collaboration look like to each party?
• This is important because it will most likely not be the same answer for each party.
• Be as specific and as honest as possible. Often times it is financial gain but, it can also be items such as using less staff time to complete a project or being able to do something on a larger scale because of the shared resources. If you want to be really honest it could also be pawning off a task you hate on someone else who likes to do it or is an expert at it.
• Who will do what and by when?
• This should be a question that garners a great deal of time and thought. Both parties together should draw up exactly what needs to be done step by step to accomplish the project. Once that has been dissected to make sure nothing known is missing then they can address who will do what.
Collaboration is an excellent tool and can be essential to growing or sustaining an organization when done correctly. I will further discuss collaboration and how you can make it work in my next post.
As managing partner of MJF Partners LLC, Ms. Flynn brings over eight years of experience in small business and non-profit development. Prior to founding MJF Partners, Ms. Flynn was the executive director of the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce. As executive director she brought her passion for independent business and community building to Lincoln Square and created a sense of place that helped to transform the Lincoln Square Community. Flynn is a skilled and experienced executive with a proven track record of creating a successful business climate balanced by strong values of sustainability and community. This experience is utilized as she partners with businesses to maximize resources and opportunities to exceed their goals.