One Of The Most Valuable Things I've Learned About Collaboration

Originally posted to Facebook ⇢

Here's one of the most important things I've learned about collaboration...

If you want to get things done, have your team think of Ideating, Deciding, and Doing as three distinct activities. Make them overlap is little as possible.

Ideally, you should only have to answer one of these questions at a time:

"What could we do?"

"What should we do?"

"What are we doing?"

For example, you might spend a couple days talking through ideas, then a couple of days deciding what to do next, and then a few weeks on getting those things done. The team commits to holding off on new ideas/decisions until after the sprint, because it's distracting to think about what you could/should be doing when you are actually trying to do things.

Of course, ideas come to us constantly. So, as they arise during your work, it's important to keep them filed for after the current sprint. (But don't be tempted to discuss them yet! Eat your broccoli before your dessert.)

Even if you aren't discussing new ideas, sometimes decisions need to be made mid-execution. That's why it's important to have a single decision-maker during that time. Their role isn't to make the best decisions, but rather to ensure that everyone can stay focused on their work and not get derailed. (Those choices can always be revisited once you're back in collective decision-making mode.)

Out of all the teams I've worked with, this has probably been the single biggest factor distinguishing the ones that get things done from the ones that don't (or do, but with a lot of confusion/friction).