One of the points that I end up stressing in collaboration training, and try to get across in the book, is the iterative nature of collaboration. Working Collaboratively is organised around three 'threads': what, who and how. 'What' is the compelling outcome you want to achieve, 'who' are the collaborators and 'how' is your process or ways of working. And you could think of these three threads being plaited together, because they are inseparable and they continue to need attention in parallel.
The 'over and over again' iteration happens for all three threads. As you explore shared or complementary outcomes, potential collaborators get closer or move away. As it becomes clearer who the collaborators will be, ways of working which suit them emerge or need to be thrashed out. As process develops, greater honesty and trust enables people to understand better what they can achieve together.
So these three plaited threads (who, what, how) loop the loop as you go forwards - being reviewed and changed.
We explored putting in a graphic to illustrate this, but my idea couldn't be transferred to an image successfully. My very poor sketch will have to suffice.
Why does this matter?
Exploratory, tentative and above all slow progress can be exasperating not just for the collaborators but for their managers or constituencies. What's going on? Why aren't there any decisions yet? What are you spending all this time on, with so little to show for it? The investment in having what feels like the same conversation over and over again is essential. Collaborators need to appreciate that, and so do the people they report to.
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