Collaboration Playbook

The collaboration playbook is a collection of activities, articles and frameworks to help you through the 6 phases of the collaboration process. By using the resources in this playbook, you will be able to create a shared understanding of the problem and work together efficiently to create a high quality solution. This playbook was curated for people working in tech & product in mid-size companies but can be useful to anyone in any industry.

The flowchart below represents the relationship between the 6 phases:

The six phases of collaboration in a flow chart The six phases of collaboration in a flow chart
1. Clarify the problem
Define the problem that needs to be solved and the expected outcome, together with your team. This will set you up for success before collaborating with others outside of your team.
2. Identify stakeholders
Understand who your stakeholders are and how you will involve them early in your process. This will enable you to get help, work together, and communicate at the right times.
3. Manage stakeholders
Align with your stakeholders and co-collaborators throughout the project. This will help you get feedback on your direction and manage people's expectations.
4. Gain topic knowledge
Learn from and involve the topic experts when you are unfamiliar with the problem space. This will help you avoid duplicate work and create a high-quality solution.
5. Work together and get feedback
Share your progress early and incorporate other people's feedback into the solution. When people work together, they create a more holistic solution than they could on their own.
6. Communicate decisions and share learnings
Document key decisions, learnings, and follow up plans. This will help people stay informed, avoid duplicate work, and enable others to build on top of your work.

Clarify the problem

Define the problem that needs to be solved and the expected outcome, together with your team. This will set you up for success before collaborating with others outside of your team.
Activity
The hopes and fears activity is an effective way to gauge participants’ attitudes about a project, workshop, or any other collaborative engagement. “Hopes” reveal your teams’ expectations about what can be accomplished. “Fears” reveal their doubts about making an investment to work together.
Activity
Asking why repeatedly helps you get to the root cause of a problem. This exercise will help you realise the underlying problem you are truly trying to solve and will help you focus on solving the right one first.
Activity
An elevator pitch template helps you create a clear, concise explanation of why your project, or feature exists. So concise, in fact, that you could explain it during the course of an elevator ride.
Activity
Understand what problem you're solving, as well as why it matters to the business and to customers. Include the minimum amount of information you need to communicate what you're doing, why you're doing it, how you'll measure success, and your go/no-go decision.

Identify stakeholders

Understand who your stakeholders are and how you will involve them early in your process. This will enable you to get help, work together, and communicate at the right times.
Activity
Imagine all the reasons your project could turn into a miserable failure. Then figure out how you can prevent those problems now, while there's still time.
Activity
Understand what could potentially impact your project's success and create a plan to proactively manage it all.
Article
Identify who your stakeholders are, prioritize your stakeholders, and figure out how to communicate with each type of stakeholder.
Framework
Template to define who should be involved and in what way (keep satisfied, actively engage, monitor, keep informed).
Framework
Template to understand what type of stakeholder each person is and how to address their needs and concerns.

Manage stakeholders

Align with your stakeholders and co-collaborators throughout the project. This will help you get feedback on your direction and manage people's expectations.
Activity
Spell out how you'll provide stakeholders with the right information at the right time, and via the right channels. Set up consistent, repeatable, and predictable processes that define what, how, and when you are going to communicate key decision points, updates, and changes.
Article
The pyramid of clarity shows how our longer-term goals are built on top of shorter-term goals. It can be used to align on the high-level purpose of the work and the concrete results we expect our work to produce.
Article
Outlines how to communicate with stakeholders at each stage of the product lifecycle, as well as strategies on how to secure stakeholder buy-in on your roadmaps.
Article
Teams that attain a shared understanding are far more likely to get a great design than those teams who fail to develop a common perception of the project’s goals and outcome.
Article
Take the time to ensure that everyone has the same understanding of the problem to be solved, the implications of the problem and the definition of a successful outcome. It sounds simple, but it is not easy and this alone will increase your likelihood of productive results.
Activity
The fishbowl process aims to increase the understanding of a large group of other people’s perspectives on an issue or proposal, and to allow them to make connections and recognize links that may have been hidden in a short amount of time.
Article
Based on if the level of agreement of the fundamental problem you are trying to solve and the clarity of the problem, you may need to tailor how you present your idea or solution to your stakeholders.
Activity
Culture Triangle is a motivational activity that helps teams or organizations understand each other better in order to improve collaboration between their units.
Framework
A rolling document to help you prepare for key decision meetings and to record outcomes and action items.
Framework
A checklist to help you create a shared understanding and to determine how you would like to work together with your actively engaged stakeholders.

Gain topic knowledge

Learn from and involve the topic experts when you are unfamiliar with the problem space. This will help you avoid duplicate work and create a high-quality solution.
Activity
Adding structure to learning activities improves the team's ability to use the knowledge immediately to improve team performance.
Activity
15-30 minute talks by topic experts to give an overview of the business goals, research, and a technology review, if relevant, and as well as anything else that may be pertinent to your project.

Work together and get feedback

Share your progress early and incorporate other people's feedback into the solution. When people work together, they create a more holistic solution than they could on their own.
Framework
Questions to help you think through each phase of the design process (Understand & Define, Explore, Create, Learn & Adapt)
Activity
Understand the customer journey from a specific persona's perspective so you can design a better experience. Journey mapping helps you visualize how customers experience your product or service, and how they feel along the way.
Activity
When project teams and stakeholders see eye to eye early on, it helps everyone feel confident the work being done is valuable to the customer and fits into a broader strategy.
Activity
Visualize your solution so it's easier for customers and stakeholders to understand what you'll deliver and provide feedback. It's critical that it shows how a user discovers the product, feature, or service, how they interact with it, and how they leave.
Activity
Gather and organize feedback from users, team members, or stakeholders. Use this anytime you’re trying to make sense of what people are trying to tell you.
Article
Outlines different kinds of critiques to use at different phases of the design process and depending on what you are looking to get out of the critique.
Article
10 tips for how to ask for feedback in a way that helps you get high-quality input that can move your project forward
Article
Looks at the pros and cons of 5 different communication channels in order to get internal feedback

Communicate decisions and share learnings

Document key decisions, learnings, and follow up plans. This will help people stay informed, avoid duplicate work, and enable others to build on top of your work.
Article
A project communication plan defines how critical information, decisions, and learnings will be delivered throughout the project, by who, and at what frequency. Learn how to put a communication plan in place and how to use it.
Framework
Template to help you put together what you want to share, who you want to share it to, and how you will share it.
Article
Projects can teach many valuable lessons about teams and processes over time. Those insights can then be used to create process change, run more efficient projects, and work better as a project team.
Article
Whether we are using lessons learned to prepare for current projects or for identifying project management process improvements, we learn from project failures as well as project successes. By not learning from project failures we are doomed to repeat similar situations
Book
This practical book provides principles, tactics, and actionable methods for talking about designs with executives, managers, developers, marketers, and other stakeholders who have influence over the project with the goal of winning them over and creating the best user experience.

Created by Alexa Kaminsky

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