How you can help your team grow in Collaboration thanks to Jean Tabaka

Collaboration Explained by Jean Tabaka is a compendium of knowledge about participatory decision making and more widely about teams dynamics!

Jean Tabaka guides us in a journey exploring all the aspect of collaboration via a digest of available knowledge coming from an extensive bibliography and having made this knowledge sound thanks to h personal experience with teams and organizations.

”Collaboration rests squarely on the shoulders of each member of a project team.”

I’ll try to summarize the journey that the author prepared for us while reading the book.

We are initially introduced the characteristics of a collaborative leader, namely a ‘Servant Leader’, compared to other kinds of leadership and referred to how she/he is involved with the team.
We then meet what is a ‘collaborative team’ compared to a simple working group. The author analyses several aspects of team life telling us about: Katzenbach Team performance curve, Tuckman model for team evolution and introducing DISC team roles.
We then learn about the characteristic of a team: starting from his attitude to Participatory Decision Making. We are presented with various instruments that will help us observe and identify team dynamics.

There’s a lot of material about the different kind of meetings and about how to identify and make visible the meeting’s purpose and agenda. We learn how to deal with the meeting sponsors and attendees.We are driven to a situation in which we can help teams own their own meetings with many meaningful hints. Starting from making everything visible to how to train team  members via pairing with you.

I recall the: Take away the Blame solution suggested:

As the process owner and leader, taking away blame becomes easy. You can take blame for not having paid attention to the process, not having addressed an issue, not having removed and impediment….

It’s great to read hints about dilemmas that I often had in my mind when I face specific situations. The author somehow helps us clarify what can we do and how we can do it safely.

I’m using the book as a handbook when organizing meetings but there’s one thing I always keep in mind and that gave a boost to the time I spend preparing meetings: the minimal set of tools that Jean Tabaka suggests for a meeting.

  1. Purpose, Agenda and Ground Rules
  2. Parking Lot
  3. Decisions Board
  4. Action Plan
  5. Communications Plan
  6. Consensus or alternative decision procedures

The author explains how to use them and how to plan in advance for appropriate agenda based on the context and purpose of the meeting.

Outstanding relevance must be given then to the section in which the author explains us an extensive set of tools to perform data gathering and dialogue between team members.  I appreciated the underlined difference between listing and brainstorming as being two different ways of data gathering.

They both can be conducted by means of the same tools but with different cognitive approaches, driven by different goals…but you must read the book to find more details 🙂

For each of the tools presented (small group dialogue, facilitator-led listing, etc) the author explains the scope of applicability and suggests how to prepare the team and narrates how it should happen.

Summarizing: it is extremely useful to read but even more useful as a handbook for facilitators.

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