Six Tips for Better Collaboration with Your Remote and Internal Software Development Teams

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Last week I attended a Collaborative Intelligence Workshop / by Neil Fogarty, where I participated in exercises designed to help participants become better collaborators.

With thanks to Neil Fogarty for the inspiration, I wanted to share what I learned – in the form of six tips for improving collaboration with your software development teams – both internal and remote.

Yes, Yes, Yes

Next time a team member brings a new idea to you, say “yes.” Better yet, always say “yes” to new ideas, as in: “Yes, that is a great idea – now let’s see if this will work for our team.”

Saying yes doesn’t mean a commitment to implementation. It means a commitment to giving every idea a real chance. Remember: the best products and solutions are built by new ideas and new thinking, so keep an open mind for the best chance at collaboration.

Break up the Tribe

Over time, groups start thinking alike – and when someone doesn’t think like the group, they are eventually excluded. When you see this happening, intervene – quickly. Reach out to ream leaders, preferably in person, to discuss the tendency toward groupthink, and if needed, create a platform for against-the-current ideation, such as a “devil’s advocate” brainstorming session where you actively invite people to poke holes in existing processes and thinking.

Breaking up your tribe will allow individuals with different ideas into the group, creating a stronger idea pool and leading to better products.

Create a Team of Many Colors

Take the time to understand what type of collaborator and strength each individual in your team has – use tools like the Strengths Finder and iMA “What Color Are You” tests. Then share the findings with all team members. With the data gathered from these tests, each team member knows where their own and their colleagues’ strengths and motivations lie.

Our experience and management research both show us that diverse teams perform at higher levels than teams that are all “one color” – so encourage top performance by helping teams understand their strengths and collaborating more effectively because of that knowledge.

Communicate Your Collaboration Goals

A team needs to understand why they are collaborating: what are the business objectives related to the project or initiative on which they are working with you?. Using both formal and informal structures – from weekly progress checks to online dashboards – to track results against the goals is a great way to ensure everyone’s working toward the same objectives. And always communicate and recognize achievements when the goal has been met. Knowing what the objectives are and why they matter makes it easier and more effective to collaborate as part of a team.

Don’t Fix Everything

Not every issue in a team needs to be resolved. If the issue encountered is not compelling, then don’t solve it. Focus only on solving compelling issues that will benefit the team. It’s like being a parent of siblings: most of the time, the disagreements and conflicts resolve themselves – and those disagreeing with one another will feel more empowered and effective if they figure our how to solve challenges on their own or as part of a small group than if a senior team member sweeps in to fix it.

Mess Up

Finally, great collaboration happens when failure happens. As Neil Fogarty said during the workshop, “Success is a lousy teacher”. Don’t be afraid to try different collaboration techniques and pay attention to the outcomes so that you can learn from your mistakes.

What’s worked (or not worked) for you in collaborating with a software team in the past? I’d love to hear about it – please offer your comments in the section below.

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