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Teamwork skills - collaborating with other groups

As a manager you may find situations when your group must collaborate with other groups on a project.This could be as simple as your group providing the food at a company luncheon and another group will be providing the cooking and serving material.However, in today's world collaboration on projects is becoming more and more complex.You will need to be aware of some simple ground rules before you begin working with other groups.

You may find your team must collaborate with other teams for a variety of reasons.Additionally, these teams may be spread across the company or even country.As the manager, you will need to make sure the ground rules are agreed upon at the beginning of the work.You will find that communication is probably the most important element in the collaboration.

First, you must understand that your teams will be interacting in different social worlds.For instance, you may be collaborating on creating some aviation software.Your team may be in charge of the software development and have to work closely with a group of pilots who are expert on the needs of the software, but know nothing technical when it comes to creating it.You will quickly find that pilots and computer engineers talk and work very differently.You will need to understand this up front to avoid unnecessary conflicts. You may even need someone skilled in both areas to act as a liason.

Additionally, these groups may be distributed across the country.Your team may be located in Arizona and not understand the delays caused by heavy snowfall by the team in New York.Your team may work four 10 hour days and take every Friday off.This may cause problems when other groups expect to be able to talk with you on Fridays too.

Technology will provide some great advantages for your collaboration.You should be aware of these options if your project requires these tools.Video conferencing may be important if you are working with physically separated groups.Software may also enhance some of your work.For instance, you may want to share spreadsheets or documents across a large group.This can be done on a server and allow people to make changes without having to send out new copies each time a change is made.Additionally, some companies specialize in software just for managing project collaboration between multiple teams.
You will want to make a timeline at the beginning of the project.All parties must agree to the timeline.This timeline can be changed, but you must realize your changes may cause significant issues for other participants.

You will also want to agree on your methods of communication.Email, phones, faxes, phone conferences and several other methods exist.Your team may like to use email because you can then track all of the communication and keep a record.Another team may like to have phone conferences because it is more personal and you can take action and make assignments right away.You must address these issues up front in order to make smooth progress.
Last, you will want to find a way to arbitrate disagreements.If you are all in one company, a project manager can be designated or maybe a vice president will be needed.However, you may find yourself working between companies.In this case you will need a way to handle disagreements that you can't resolve on your own.You should agree ahead of time how to handle these disagreements.

In summary, project collaboration becomes a very important tool in large complex organizations.As a manager it is important to lay down the ground rules before you get started.Remember that different groups are run differently than yours so you will need to make allowances.Lastly, you will want to have ways to solve disagreements.

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