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Methods for Assessing Collaboration Strategies

written by: Saoirse OMara•edited by: Ginny Edwards•updated: 5/20/2011

When you want your employees to tackle projects in teams, it is absolutely necessary to assess how well they work together. This article looks at methods for assessing collaboration strategies and explains when alternative strategies may be needed.

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    Whenever your employees have to work in groups, you come to a point where you will be assessing collaboration. However, how do you know if the team collaboration has been successful? There are signs for successful collaboration as well as for unsuccessful collaboration.

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    Collaboration within the Team

    Picture by Ulrich Antas, Minden /
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    Picture by Ulrich Antas, Minden /

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    Signs of Successful Collaboration

    Before assessing collaboration strategies, you have to define a successful collaboration. What do you expect? Do you want to have results in a certain period of time? Or is collaboration already successful if your employees organize themselves without your intervention?

    When you have answered these questions for yourself, you can start with the assessment.

    First of all, you should check which tasks are done by which employee. Have they shared the workload equally? Can each employee use his or her full potential doing the assigned work?

    If you can answer both questions with “yes”, your team seems to collaborate well without your intervention.

    Another good sign for a successful collaboration is a good atmosphere in the group. Work seems easier when your employees feel at ease.

    Last but not least, do they achieve their goals? When you get the results in the scheduled time, you have done the right thing. Your employees collaborate well. Congratulations.

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    Signs for Unsuccessful Collaboration

    There are some warning signs for unsuccessful collaboration. If you notice them within your team, maybe it would be best to re-build the team.

    The first warning signs normally are arguments within the group. Please do not confuse them with heated discussions. Arguments are often focused on hurting the opponent beyond the topics of work.

    You should check too if the workload is distributed equally. Some people rather work alone while others rather do no work at all. If you have employees like this, you better organize them in different teams. Otherwise, it can happen that the solitary workers will do all the work while the rather lazy workers do not do anything at all.

    When your team does not meet the requirements, you have to inquire what went wrong. Assessing collaboration throughout the whole process can help you notice warning signs when they begin so that you can act before it is too late.

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    Strategies for Building the Team

    There are mainly two ways of building a team. The first way is to build a team of equal team members. They have to organize their work together and make decisions in the team.

    The other alternative is a team with a team leader. The team leader can either be a superior colleague or one of the team who has been chosen by the others. Normally, the team leader allocates the various tasks and supervises the work. He or she is responsible for the team’s success.

    There is no best strategy. If you have difficult characters in your team, a team leader can help to guarantee a smooth collaboration. On the other hand, if you have good team players, they should be able to organize themselves.

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    Assessing the Use of Collaboration Tools – Communication and Meetings

    While collaboration within the team is the most important point, it is not all. Your team can collaborate well on the surface and still not meet the expectations. Then you have to look for other sources of problems.

    Effectiveness of your communication tools, for example, is one area that should be assessed. Is every team member trained in their use? Are they adequate for the situation? When your team members are in different locations, they may need to hold meetings over the phone or internet. Video conferences are the best solution. Team members cannot only talk to each other but see their opponents too. Therefore, misunderstandings are less likely.

    Important meeting results should be written down, including the issues addressed, the solutions on which they have agreed and the tasks each one of them has been assigned until their next meeting. A copy of these records should be sent to each team member via email.

    Another important question concerning meetings is the following: Have all important issues been addressed and have the team members found a good solution for each issue? The best meeting is worth nothing if important issues have not been discussed properly.

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    Assessing the Use of Collaboration Tools – Finding Solutions

    In assessing collaboration, probably the most important point is the process of finding solutions. Now, the questions to ask are: Which methods for finding solutions do your employees know? Are these methods useful when tackling the problems in question? If not, which other methods could your employees use? How can they learn how to use them?

    When they start, they can do a brainstorming. It is always useful to make them aware of the main problem and to collect ideas or associations to the problem. Maybe they even recognize other problems which are connected to the main issue.

    The next step should include sorting the ideas into groups and finding a headline for each group. Then they need to order them according to their priority.

    Now they can discuss the necessary steps, allocate tasks and actually start the process of solving the problem at hand.