Scales of Collaboration

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Reading time: 3 minutes 

Idea in brief: The scales of collaboration can help you and your teams to work more effectively by improve your collaboration. It allows you to measure how you are currently collaborating and what you can do to improve its effectiveness. But what’s wrong with our current approach and how do you use the scale?

Issues with existing collaboration

Whenever I talk with people who work in teams one of the things I hear quite often is how much they are collaborating. But when we start digging into what they are doing you begin to notice that everyone has a different idea of what collaboration means.

This results in behaviours between team members that puzzles them when they think they’ve done everything right but the other people don’t respond in the way they anticipated. 

Examples I’ve heard of collaboration :  

  1. ‘They should know where to find all the information’
  2. ‘I sent them an email with all the details, they just never did anything with it’
  3. ‘I gave them an opportunity to feedback anything they wanted, they didn’t so it must be fine’

In all three cases the people involved believed they where attempting to collaborate but in reality all they where doing was making information available. It was up to the recipient to decide what to do with the information if anything. 

Scales of collaboration

If this isn’t collaborating then what is it and for that matter what is collaborating? This is where the scales of collaboration could come in useful. Taken from the work of Bruce B. Frey et al 2004,  Measuring Change in Collaboration Among School Safety Partners . Which was originally developed from Levels of Community Linkage Model (Hogue, 1993)*. It was developed as a questionnaire to measure how well groups of people collaborated. 

*Which unfortunately I’ve been unable to find the original paper only references to it

This works on 0 to 5 scale with each level having a defined set of characteristics. Where 0 is no interaction at all and 5 being collaboration. With each level building on top of the previous one.  

Scales of collaboration
Scales of collaboration developed from Levels of Community Linkage Model (Hogue, 1993)

When applied to the collaboration examples above you can see that example 1 is just making the information available which would indicate level 1 – Networking. Example 2 while is providing the information isn’t asking them to do anything which is level 2 Cooperation. Example 3 would welcome feedback but isn’t explicitly asking or providing them with a mechanism to do so therefore it would also be level 2 Cooperation.

Following the scale up towards level 5 begins to highlight what else each example would need to do to improve their collaboration.

Characteristics of collaboration

I have further augmented the scale with a few extra characteristics. This will also help you work out where you are on that scale and what you trying to achieve. This includes 

  • How you make information available to others 
  • Consumer/provider interaction model of this information 
  • Speed of decision making
  • Engagement levels of the people involved 
  • Examples of what each level of collaboration could look like 

I’ve also left off level 0 on this diagram as that would indicate no interactions and possibly not even awareness of one another.  

How to us it?

  1. Establish where you are on the scale  
    • You could do this by seeing if what you are doing fits onto the scale based on its characteristics or if it looks similar to the examples on the scale provided 
    • Once you’ve established where you are on the scale then
  2. Where do you want to be on the scale? 
    • The best way to do this is to identify the aim you are trying to achieve based on: 
      • The information: 
        • Is it just information providing, an opportunity to get feedback or to change opinions/direction?  
      • Decision Speed:
        • How quickly does a decision needs to be made
      • Engagement: 
        • If something needs to change due to that information and/or decision then there will be a greater need for engagement 
  3. How will you move up (or down) the scale? 
    • Use the characteristics on the scale as possible things you could do to move to this level
    • What do you need to do to move in the direction you want to go in?
  4. Share the scale with the people you are trying to collaborate with
    • This would create a shared understanding of what collaboration means to this group
    • Which helps everyone involved understand what is going to be expected of them and what overall outcomes everyone is trying to achieve

If you have already started to work with people then I would also avoid trying to jump straight to where you want to be. The risk being that it doesn’t lead to the collaboration you anticipated. Which could make it much harder to convince those people of your collaborative efforts in the future. 

My personal preference is to use each stage of the scale as a stepping stone to the next. This way you iteratively build up your skills and approaches towards getting more of what you want and less of what you don’t. This also allows more room to tweak approaches as you get feedback and are therefore more likely to be successfully in the long run.

What do you think?

  • What do you think of the scales of collaboration?
  • Where do your teams sit on the scale?
  • Would this help you and your teams to collaborate more or less?

Let me know in the comments section below.

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