There is a strong focus on collaboration and its importance to success. Collaborative working practices apply between leaders and their colleagues and direct reports or between organisations. When it comes to major projects, more and more clients are wanting to ensure right from the start (in fact even before a tender comes out!) that each party can work together collaboratively.

But what actually is collaboration? Is it about keeping the other party happy? Well, partly it is – but this happiness should be the by-product of having a best for project or outcome mindset. Collaboration isn’t about win/lose or master/servant or self-sacrifice, it’s an arrangement where everyone wins and you work together, constructively. You may not always agree with the other party, but you need to have alignment in the end goal of mutually beneficial project success.

So how do you make a best for project mindset collaborative and more than just lip service to win the job? You need to take the time upfront to sit down and each party clearly define their own expectations and understand the other parties. For example, is there an alignment of:

  • Your definition of success?
  • The resources you’re willing to invest?
  • How you will handle things when the going gets tough?
  • The systems and processes you will use?
  • How you will share risk and reward?
  • Your approach to safety?

These are only a few examples, you need to determine what is important to you and then determine whether there is alignment and a shared level of importance with the other party. Being sure of this upfront before you start working together can save a lot of heartache in the long run. And if you’re not aligned, it’s near impossible to work collaboratively as someone will always end up feeling like they got the short end of the deal.