Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Secrets of Collaboration

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It's increasingly important for Architect's to exhibit effective collaboration skills. For example, innovative ideas, trust, and teamwork thrive in a collaborative environment (and we know that trust and communication are precursors to results). Also, many of us find ourselves working with teams that are geographically and culturally disparate, a situation that demands even greater collaboration - more creatively.

In this light, Alistair Cockburn recently gave a sneak preview of an article he's working on about improved collaboration. He highlights the following practical techniques:

  • Lift others
    • Be courteous
    • Add energy to the room
    • Listen intently
    • Inquire (don't argue)
    • Recognize others
    • Challenge but adopt other suggestions
  • Increase safety
    • Be yourself
    • Say something honest and true, but on the edge
    • Support someone else who is at the edge of their comfort level
    • Challenge but adopt other suggestions
  • Get results
    • Make sure there is a known goal
    • Get one result (then get more)
    • Focus, get back from diversions
These suggestions are provided in the context of a specific engagement or meeting, but many can be applied in general. Reading through the list, I'm reminded of principles such as "Seek first to Understand" from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and "Vigourous Debate" from Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't. These are not only essential characteristics of a healthy and productive culture, they're essential skills of the Software Architect.

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