EBDM Starter Kit
1g: Building a Collaborative Climate
Navigating the Roadmap
Activity 1: Build a genuine, collaborative policy team.
One of the eight characteristics of highly effective teams is that they operate within the context of a “collaborative climate.”1 A collaborative climate is built upon a foundation of trust among members. Trust promotes efficient communication and coordination and allows team members to stay solution-focused, thereby improving outcomes. Trust is earned, over time, when the following conditions are true:
- Honesty: Members operate with integrity and are truthful.
- Openness: Members are willing to share and be receptive to new ideas.
- Consistency: Members are predictable in their behaviors and responses.
- Respect: Members treat others with dignity and fairness.
Too often groups do not take the time to assess their working relationships or to consider how best to foster these relationships to increase their likelihood of success. The purpose of this document is to encourage teams to pay as much attention to this aspect of their work as they do to understanding evidence-based practice and decision making, and to put as much care into building and sustaining the team as they do in planning and implementing change initiatives.
All policy team members should be actively engaged in the process of building and sustaining a collaborative climate. However, it might be useful to identify a few team members who are particularly attuned to these kinds of issues to make regular observations of the team’s collaborative climate and to elicit feedback from members on how well the team is working together.
Identify “Temperature Takers” to Monitor the Collaborative Climate
While it is clearly the responsibility of every member of the team to contribute to and thereby build a collaborative climate, some individuals are keenly adept at assessing climate and at recognizing and seizing opportunities to improve teamwork, while others may not be as strong in this area. Simply stated, some people almost instinctively notice when things are going well and when the collaborative climate is faltering. This may be reason to specifically identify one or more team members to monitor the collaborative climate, to initiate dialogue about how well the team is working together, and to identify and facilitate activities that are likely to promote trust and support a positive, collaborative climate.
Utilize Tools and Strategies for Monitoring the Climate
There are a variety of methods of assessing the level of collaboration among team members.
- The survey Working Together: A Profile of Collaboration is one method of objectively assessing members’ perceptions of how well the team is working together.2 The initial administration of this survey will establish a baseline of data around the team’s functioning. Re-administer the survey periodically (e.g., every six months) to identify improvements or new challenge areas.
- Periodically review the team’s ground rules to discuss how well members are adhering to them.
- Provide team members with a list of expectations of their participation.3
- Consider asking team members to periodically assess themselves with respect to these expectations, to report back to the group the strength they believe they most consistently bring to the team and the one they most need to work on, or to ask team members to provide one another feedback on some or all of the individual expectations on the list.
- Periodically include an item on the team agenda that provides for an open dialogue about the team’s effectiveness working together.
- Alternatively, reserve time at the end of a team meeting to pose a set of structured questions such as the following. These questions can be answered anonymously (each member can write their responses (yes/no) on a sheet of paper and these can be collected and tallied) or members can provide their responses in an open forum.
- Generally speaking, are our meetings productive and helping us work towards our vision/mission?
- Do we work from agendas that provide structure and purpose to our meetings?
- Do all members actively participate in our meetings?
- Is there a sufficient level of trust among group members to allow for candid discussion?
- Are all members respectful, even when their perspectives or opinions differ?
- Do members feel “heard” when they share their views?
- Are all members equally committed to the vision/mission?
- Are all members equally contributing to the work of the team?
- Do members believe we can accomplish something together that we could not accomplish separately?
- Do members feel that the team is “in this together,” even when things become difficult?
- What can we be doing to further strengthen our team?
- Solicit the assistance of an outside, neutral individual to interview team members about how well the team is functioning, then report that information back to the group as a whole for consideration and action planning, where needed.
1 The eight characteristics of highly effective teams identified by Larson and LaFasto (1989) are: a clear and elevating goal, a results-driven structure, competent team members, a unified commitment, a collaborative climate, standards of excellence, external support and recognition, and principled leadership.
2 For more on the Working Together survey, see 1b: Administering a Collaboration Survey.
3 For some ideas, see the Appendix.
Carter, M. (2005). Collaboration: A training curriculum to enhance the effectiveness of criminal justice teams. Retrieved from http://www.cepp.com/documents/2005CollaborationCurriculum.pdf
CEPP (2005). Collaborative Justice. Website. http://www.collaborativejustice.org/
Chrislip, D. D., & Larson, C. E. (1994). Collaborative leadership: How citizens and civic leaders can make a difference. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Larson, C. E., & LaFasto, F. M. J. (1989). Teamwork: What must go right/what can go wrong. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.