“I help teams which experience communication challenges to work together better using a process called Collaboration Dynamics. I see teams improving the flow of information, developing relationships, and reducing misunderstandings and conflicts.”

A new friend, Roy Marriott, asked me some good questions this week about my work with teams. “Who are the people who I should be introducing you to? And what’s your offer to them – what problems do you help them solve, what difference do you make?”

It’s not the first time I’ve been asked these things, by any means. But it’s a good time. I’m doing a lot more work with teams these days, and talking to more prospective customers, and so the answers are becoming clearer.

Here’s my latest take. Comments, anyone?

What’s The Offer?

I help teams which experience communication challenges to work together better by improving the flow of information, developing relationships, and reducing misunderstandings and conflicts.

The process, Collaboration Dynamics, builds team members’ skills in three foundation collaboration competencies:

  • Paying attention
  • Directing attention
  • Speaking up.

As an integral part of the process of learning, it applies these skills to tackling the real-life communication challenges of the team. As a result:

  • Participants communicate more effectively both within the team and beyond
  • Information flows more easily and transparently: misunderstandings are reduced
  • Working relationships are improved and conflicts become more creative.

What’s more, participants tend to become actively aware by other people’s views of reality, and how they differ from their own. The benefits of that include:

  • An atmosphere of respectful curiosity both within the team and in dealing with other stakeholders
  • People understanding each other – and feeling deeply understood
  • Uncovering what people really mean, and clearing up misperceptions
  • Reduction in “politics” and point-scoring, and an increase in openness and trust
  • Collaboration, learning and development become inevitable.

Who Benefits Most?

My Work With TeamsThe process is most successful with teams which:

  • Are engaged in collaborative, creative and innovative work in complex contexts
  • Have strong technical, scientific and/or academic skills
  • Are reasonably fluent in English
  • Experience communication challenges such as frequent misunderstandings, “silo” working, or ineffective meetings.

Teams using Agile methods have found this process especially valuable.

Team members can be based all in one place, or all remote, or a mixture of the two.

I’d love to be introduced to anyone who leads a small or medium-sized organisation which has teams like that, or anyone who leads that kind of team and would like some help.

The people who hire me tend to have titles like “head of delivery”, “head of operations”, “programme director”… that kind of thing.

What About Some Examples?

A software development team in a large broadcast organisation:
“The results from the sessions have been very positive and beneficial. People are now engaging more effectively with each other. They are listening and verifying their understanding. They are getting better answers by a combination of querying and the person being more forthcoming with detail as they have realised they are being listened to. They are also being more productive as they are structuring their questions and comments rather than rattling off a series of unstructured thoughts.
“I expect all of the above to result in a reduction on the rework needed on analysis and design work, plus a closer understanding of our business team’s needs.
“Another positive impact that we have seen is the reduction in conflicts due to misunderstandings. This can be a big time waster causing confusion and frustration.”
Corinne Knight, Broadcast IT, BSkyB, London, UK
A safety and logistics team in a large charity:
“Our new team is very diverse, and we wanted to find a way towards common ground, learn about each other and pick up useful communication skills.  We all agree that working with Judy helped us do all these things. We have applied the techniques to clarify our communications to good effect, both professionally within the organisation and in our personal lives.”
David Clamp, Head of Safety and International Operational Support, Raleigh International, London, UK
A remotely-based team in a large NGO:
“The biggest change is in proactivity. People are more effective, and clear about their priorities. We are all better at asking more thoughtful, better, productive questions that lead to clarity and to concrete actions. And ultimately, we’re happier, because things are managed in a coordinated way and get done.”
Mike Pejcic, Interpeace, Geneva, Switzerland

What’s My Work With Teams Based On?

Collaboration Dynamics is underpinned by the precision inquiry methodology Clean Language, devised by the late David Grove, and on later development by Caitlin Walker and others.

Clean Language:

  • Inherently values diversity and difference
  • Exploits on apparently-universal principles
  • Fits with modern “enabling” approaches to leadership
  • Works across cultures and in a wide variety of contexts
  • Uses metaphor – the atom of thought – to spark powerful conversations.

The Collaboration Dynamics teaching process is facilitative, collaborative and open, maximising engagement and minimising top-down, chalk-and-talk teaching. This ensures that learning goes beyond the level of theory and actually changes real-world behaviour.

However, care is taken to provide clear signposts, especially in the early stages, reassuring those who may be less familiar with emergent approaches.

At the core of the process is series of activities, many of them involving work in pairs or threes. While the “taught” parts of the event will be in English, the small-group activities can be conducted either in English or a local language.

Logistics

For an in-person workshop (typically two days, divided by a week or so), we will need:

  • a circle of chairs (no tables)
  • enough space for pairs to spread out for activities
  • a flip chart and the ability to stick flip chart sheets to the walls
  • some sticky notes and marker pens.

For a series of remote video calls (typically six weekly 90-minute calls), each participant needs:

  • an internet-connected device
  • a webcam and headset
  • a quiet place to call from.

Work With Teams: Next Steps

If I can help you, or if you can introduce me to someone who could use my help, please contact me.

And if you have a question or comment which might improve this description, please post below!

  • The above reflects my personal preferences, experiences and focus. Lots of people do different kinds of work with teams, or work with a different kinds of team, using Clean Language. Lots of people do quite similar work in languages other than English. If you’d like my help to find them, again please contact me.

    1 Response to "My Work With Teams: Where’s The Value?"

    • Marko Ikonen

      According to Wiio’s laws, “Communication usually fails, except by accident”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiio%27s_laws 🙂

      That said, I think that the most tangible thing here is to reduce misunderstandings and conflicts. I’d say something like this (super short).

      “I help people to reduce misunderstandings and conflicts. In the business world, this leads to higher quality projects, faster development cycles and more satisfied customers, employees and partners. And what’s best, usually this can be achieved in one day.”

      Br,

      Marko

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