All Aboard! How to Write Your Team Collaboration Manifesto
Getting your team to adopt a new online collaboration platform has its challenges. Issues around culture, user experience and governance are common speed bumps. For example, employees might squirrel away secret stashes of project documents and business knowledge, in hopes of protecting their jobs, especially during troubled economies.
The email inbox, however, remains the common collaboration tool because every employee has an email account. Changing project teams from this collaboration status quo requires more than a plan; it requires a team collaboration manifesto.
A team collaboration manifesto is a declaration of collaboration policy and aims. It should be a participatory document open to questions, debate and additions by team members.
Here are some policies and aims to address in your team’s collaboration manifesto:
Make a declaration for collaboration
A team collaboration manifesto should start with a declaration of collaboration aims for the team. This declaration isn’t only about collaboration technology; you need to communicate how collaboration is going to help the team become more productive and let individuals focus on their work. List the previous pain points that the new collaboration platform resolves.
The problem-and-resolution message of this declaration should draw from real incidents that took place on current and past projects. Every team has their tales of corrupted documents, versioning issues and email woes that were frustrating time sucks. Show how your new way of collaborating will improve a project’s successful delivery.
Set a collaborative culture
I’ve long been a proponent that you need a collaborative culture before you can successfully implement the project management software to go with it. Your manifesto can be a platform for setting (or in some cases resetting) your team’s collaborative culture.
Your manifesto might chart some or all of the following cultural aims:
- Have open and constructive dialog, including questions about project and organizational direction without fear of reprisal.
- Focus debates on the best interest of the project, not the individual.
- Share technical and business knowledge—don’t hoard.
- Approach project management as a team activity, not just an individual’s role.
Your manifest also needs to focus on how the team will collaborate. To paraphrase, some former military personnel I’ve worked with over the years used to say, “the mission, the team, and the individual.” There’s a collaboration lesson here that one could almost call a collaborative hierarchy of needs:
- Team member
This hierarchy of collaboration needs shows how the project team is made stronger through collaboration. Team members have a greater voice and opportunity to learn from others, and each member of the project team gains a share of project management responsibility. Don’t forget to include information about what team members can expect from their leadership in regards to collaboration.
Aim for transparent communications across the team
Email is comfortable because it provides an audit trail, but it also encourages insular communications practices. If your team is overly dependent on email, your collaboration manifesto needs to address the benefits and aims of transparent communications.
For example, let’s say your team uses a collaboration platform that supports threaded discussions. Your collaboration manifesto should cite the aims to move team conversations and communications out of email inboxes and onto the threaded discussion board.
Another team communications model to consider is the escalation of team communications. Often, collaborative teams use communications channels by the urgency of communications. For example:
- Group chat for questions that require an immediate response
- Threaded discussions for more involved commentary including problem solving
- Web conferencing for team meetings and conversations over detailed technical topics
- Phone calls for immediate answers and sensitive team or personnel conversations
Establish an open form of collaboration governance
The team collaboration manifesto should also act as a governing document over processes and platforms. It should include:
- Collaboration platform roles and assignments
- Collaboration workflow(s) and the required roles
- Management over document versions
You might also consider creating a collaboration platform user’s handbook to provide a framework around rules-of-use. LiquidPlanner offers customers an LP Playbook, which provides teams with an outline of how to create their own book of usage rules.
Develop new document management policies
Network shared drives, local hard drives, personal cloud storage, corporate and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) mobile devices offer too many opportunities for team members to have their “own” copies of project and corporate documents.
Use your manifesto to set policies for establishing the official versions of project documents—including guidelines on how to pull documents from those “secret stashes” into a centralized location.
After establishing that central location for approved versions of project documents, your team’s collaboration manifesto should map out:
- Ongoing document management (updates, edits, reviews)
- Document-sharing guidelines
- Rolling back to the previous document version
Make your collaboration manifesto public
As with any manifesto, yours needs to go public. You can set up a wiki page with the content, or include the document in your collective workspace.
From time to time, team members might need manifesto refreshers—especially as new hires come on board—so set up regular reviews. Keep an ongoing discussion around how the aims, policies and declarations are working to improve team collaboration and communications. Your manifesto, like your team and your organization is always a work in progress.
Have you written a team collaboration manifesto? Tell us about it in the comments.