You may be working as part of a group or team but you may not be sure if you are all working toward the same goal. Does everyone share the same idea about the result you want to achieve? Do people agree on the form that the project will take? Do they need to?
You can ask people on the team what their vision is and see if it lines up with yours. It’s a good sign if they are also interested in how you see things. A good team will want to establish early on in their work whether they have a shared understanding of the project. If they are open to possibilities as the project develops, it shows that collaboration and understanding are in an active balance.
If there is a ready-made prescription for how a project is to unfold, it is possible that collaborative efforts will not be required, and it is a matter of following orders and responding to requests. Don’t overestimate the collaborative effort needed.
Start by sharing information
When asked, most people will readily chime in with how they see a project, its aims and the form it will take. Not always. Some people may not have the ability to collaborate; there is a form of brain damage that may prevent people from acting cooperatively. So, if someone is not cooperating with the team, it could be a sign of a physiological or mental health difficulty. If you are being affected, you must take care in how you handle the situation.
More likely, a lack of collaborative spirit is due to a culture that does not yet fully support collaboration as a normal way of working.
In groups where sharing is encouraged and accepted, the need to cooperate is not questioned; individual resistance is rare. Everyone values the collaborative effort. When there are problems, it could be that people are contributing, but not being heard. This can shut down the cooperative spirit hard and fast, but it can be repaired by hearing out the resisters.
Defining how you contribute
When taking part in a team project of any type, there are some basic questions you will want to answer. Usually, there is a document, especially for large projects. Read that to understand how to answer these questions.
- What is the aim of the project? What are the reasons for doing it?
- What form will the project take? What kind of processes are involved?
- Who is on the team and what are their roles? What is my role?
- What is the process for approving various development and production steps?
- What is the time frame? Are there any milestones or hard deadlines?
- What expertise might be needed that is not already included in the team skillset?
- Are there regulatory or policy issues to be considered?
- Is the project related to previous or current activities?
- Does the project have an impact on other activities in the organization?
- What resources are needed and are these available?
- How will the project be managed?
- How will the information be curated?
- What is the process for resolving difficulties or disputes?
- What production channels should be established?
- What are the risks involved?
- What will success look like? What defines success?
Answers will help you to establish your knowledge of what must be accomplished and how to understand your part in it. Of course, these questions are not a full guide to project management. Let me know in the comments if you think of others that would be useful. There are plenty of apps and expertise to help.
By sharing your understanding of the answers to these questions with other team members, you will refine your understanding and develop a good foundation for future discussions. It should become apparent where differences lie and how important those are.
When difficulties arise
If you meet with resistance, or if problems arise in your day-to-day activities, you can explore that. Here are some questions you can ask yourself.
- Is it a people problem or a resource problem?
- What is being affected? Is it more about feelings or ego, or are there also production and quality issues?
- Is it that people are being difficult or did you get the wrong end of the stick at first?
- Have others offered their opinions about what they have noticed?
- Where is the resistance coming from? Is there one person trying to be controlling and do they have that authority?
- What expectations are being expressed?
- Do you need to change how you see things?
- Has everyone involved shown respect for the opinions of others?
- Is the resistance you are feeling worth more attention? Or is it something you can you let go of?
- Are there other team members or resource people who might be well suited to questioning the situation or raising the issues?
Before getting involved in discussions about problems, or going out to get a wider sense of what is going on, try to answer these yourself first. You will form a good foundation for addressing problems if you define your own perspective clearly.
It will save you a lot of time and energy to understand that you can change your perspective slightly and simply let the issue go. Consider the impact of doing that. In larger organizations with strong hierarchical structures, one may not always have the freedom or the authority to question or change things. It will help you to assess the possibility for yourself.
Depending on your workload and the expectations for your role, you may want to manage your contribution without working too deeply towards a greater understanding of specific problems. This has been the greatest takeaway for me, and part of the reason I started this blog.
When there is conflict, we don’t need to address it specifically, change hearts and minds, or resolve everything, especially if it is not part of our role to do so. We can make sure that any impact on what we are responsible for is considered. Our colleagues will be more open to talking about impact and options than about disagreement with methods and ideas.
Do you need a shared vision?
The most important thing about shared aims and objectives is to understand that they are not always possible or needed. There are a few signs to look for.
If the project aims to innovate or have an impact, it needs collaborative effort where team members share objectives. You see this, for example, in emergency response where various organizations are contributing resources and time is of the essence.
If the project is part of normal production for your organization, normal work processes are likely to be sufficient in defining how to work together. This is usually more a form of cooperation than full out collaboration. In such cases, the vision of what is to be achieved is embodied by the organization itself and roles are already well defined.
If the project is complex or risky, it requires a shared understanding of the aims and objectives and it is usually worth the effort to define those clearly.
Assessing the projects you take part in for these indicators will help you better gauge your participation and contribution.
Photo by rawpixel.com, available on Pexels.com