Collaboration And Common Ground

PICT0229Driving home from Cambridge Steph and I were discussing teams and so I got to explain my favourite tool for establishing effective collaboration, building ‘common ground’.  It’s an incredibly simple concept, but that simplicity makes it powerful.

The basic idea:

The more complex a collaboration, the more areas of common ground are needed

Lets take an example of a complex project:

large scale, new, poorly defined requirements, lot’s of integration, difficult customer (or even worse no customer)

So lots of common ground will be required, for example:

a team that knows each other, co-located, exceptional inter/intra-team communication, well defined and understood scope, well defined and understood conceptual architecture

My top tip, whenever you start a new project:

  1. assess how complex it in in every dimension (Process, Organisation, Location, Data, Application, Technology, Service Model, Security, Timescales, Budget Constraints)
  2. then list all the potential ways of establishing common ground (Familiarity, Trust, Skills, Location, Scope, Solution, Communication …)
  3. then match the level of complexity with the level of common ground that you need.  High Complexity = High Common Ground
  4. if you have areas of poor common ground, like a virtual team who don’t know each other or trust each other then you need exceptional focus on establishing common ground in other ways like a common understanding across the team of scope, superb communication within the team, high quality individual status reporting, a very well understood conceptual architecture (scope, objectives, shape, dependency, integrations)

Common ground applies everywhere, for example:

  1. Families need work hard to maintain common ground over time as they frequently diverge as kids get older (traditions, family meals, spending time together)
  2. Managers and those they lead need to establish common ground if they are to work effectively together
  3. Establishing common ground is key to effective negotiation

The picture was taken at the south end of Haweswater, I was walking around the lake and meeting my daughter Jennie at the hotel before walking along the south east segment together.  I don’t get to spend much time with her and I wanted to share with her the beauty of walking in the Lakes, building a little common ground.  It was a wonderful afternoon, one we will never forget.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

4 Responses

  1. March 24, 2014

    […] to the podcasts yourself, I know I will continue to do so. It’s nice to have finally found some common ground that I can share with Debbie in this important area of her […]

  2. March 24, 2014

    […] my recent post on Common Ground I mentioned the critical role that a thorough understanding of scope has on establishing common […]

  3. March 28, 2014

    […] simple idea of common ground provides a good start point for thinking about the kind of ‘team’ you […]

  4. August 10, 2014

    […] post expands on an earlier post that introduces the concept of Common […]

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