Over and over I talk to companies, work with people who complain about “project management,” mainly lack of project management as the root of all that is dysfunctional in a business or team — but that is never it — it might be part of it, but at the root, it’s always a culture problem, lack of communication, lack of trust, lack of shared purpose, lack of a team approach.

For a taste (or even a self-directed course!) on what I mean by this, I definitely recommend this piece by David Siegel, The Culture Deck: How people work is as important as what they do.

Individuals and interactions come first. Enjoy!

Great post by Jesse Lyn Stoner, Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership, on the distinction between collaboration, coordination, and cooperation.

Often the words collaboration, coordination, and cooperation are used to describe effective teamwork. But they are not the same, and when we use these words interchangeably, we dilute their meaning and diminish the potential for creating powerful, collaborative workplaces.

She shares the following definitions:

Collaboration is working together to create something new in support of a shared vision. The key points are that is is not an individual effort, something new is created, and that the glue is the shared vision.

Coordination is sharing information and resources so that each party can accomplish their part in support of a mutual objective. It is about teamwork in implementation. Not creating something new.

Cooperation is important in networks where individuals exchange relevant information and resources in support of each other’s goals, rather than a shared goal. Something new may be achieved as a result, but it arises from the individual, not from a collective team effort.

I appreciate that clarification — and also her note on when collaboration is important:

 … in an interdependent organization, collaboration is the bedrock of creative solutions and innovation.

Reference kudos to: Stephen Downes

Next book on my list, I think! And this column/review in Forbes is a good read:

Finally: A Business Memoir That Owes More To Nassim Taleb Than To Jack Welch

Forbes contributor David Shaywitz generally writes about innovation in medicine, but it is his overview here of Pixar President Ed Catmull’s book, Creativity, Inc, that is interesting to new work and potential innovation within any industry.

It provides an opportunity for us to recognize that the uncertainty, tensions, and at times, frustration in collaboration, we feel as we innovate and develop new products, and the importance + challenge of just getting started, feedback and iteration, is not only to be expected but also critical to the creative process.

CreativityInc_©Disney_Pixar-674x1024A few good excerpts:

“Great projects aren’t born, but develop over time, and are inevitably associated with a vast number of false steps and dead-ends.”

“Getting from sucking to not sucking is the essence of film development, and requires candid feedback and the willingness to iterate.”

“… Catmull views the need to ensure emerging projects receive engaged, constructive feedback represents a vital ongoing challenge requiring constant vigilance and attention, rather than a problem a committee has solved.”

“Catmull isn’t looking for certitude, and would profoundly (and appropriately) distrust it if he saw it. But the alternative is finding a way to function and achieve balance – a very dynamic and ever-changing balance – in a world that’s constantly shifting.”

‘… He also observes that “the antidote to fear is trust,” and “trust is the best tool for driving out fear,” and getting people “to reframe the way they think about the process and the risks.” ‘

‘ … Not only does Catmull recognize the futility of trying to domesticate uncertainty, he also astutely perceives its value. “The most creative people are willing to work in the shadow of uncertainty,” he suggests. “The Hidden – and our acknowledgement of it – is an absolutely essential part of rooting out what impedes our progress: clinging to what works, fearing change, and deluding ourselves about our roles in our own success.” ‘

Some good quotes that stood out to one of my colleagues:

Re: the dev process:

The dynamic tensions between the various stakeholders within an organization can be healthy, a “route to balance, which benefits us all in the long run.”

Perhaps a refutation of “good enough” thinking?

Making the process better, easier and cheaper is an important aspiration, something we continually work on,” Catmull writes, “but it is not the goal. Making something great is the goal.”

This focus on techniques intrigues me…What are the techniques that could help us combine the different viewpoints w/in the company and among our stakeholders?

Catmull deeply believes we must “accept that we can’t understand every facet of a complex environment,” and should instead focus “on techniques to deal with combining different viewpoints.”

It’s interesting — I often come across a perspective, especially when talking project management, that “process” is the solution — “If only we had the right process,” “If only we had the right person to decide on the right process.” I acknowledge that process is important, most importantly a shared understanding of process. But, in my experience, “Process” is not a one size fits all kind of thing — and “Process” does not exist distinct from we humans who work within it.

So – my priority is always the people, listening and understanding client expectations, team skills and abilities, fundamental motivators, competing priorities — and applying or building a collaborative process around that in order to get things done as efficiently as possible. Over time, “process” can then become part of a team or company culture and from there can be scaled to new hires, new teams, and new projects.

The following can always be found under my “About” page, but I thought it would make a good first post as well:

My name is Larry – I am fifty years old this year (2014), and I just learned that I was dropped by a delivery doc when I was born, and caught on some canvas (a laundry bag?) by some sharp reflexed attendant. Had I landed on my head, it would have better explained some things in my life!

I have been leading and guiding creative teams for the majority of my career – though I hadn’t realized that to be my career thread until relatively recently. I am not happy unless I am working with people and a project.

My work experience spans design, publications, process management, communications, marketing, education, technology integration, software development and implementation, as well as online course development and eLearning.

What’s up with the name of my site, you ask?

Anicca = Pali for the Buddhist concept of “impermanence
Collab is short for “Collaboration”

The terms represent, for me, just a couple of the very few things that I have come to understand:

1) Uncertainty, change (impermanence), is fundamental to reality, and true to the process of creativity, developing something new. Being comfortable with uncertainty and change is not easy, but to work toward that, to work within that understanding, is essential to the creative process.

2) Collaboration, people working together toward a shared goal, is also a vital component in the design and development process, the creation of something new, and one answer to our discomfort with uncertainty and change. A collaborative team can find that place where the unknown represents possibility instead of fear.

This site is meant to be two things: one for me, and possibly one for you.

For me it is a place to explore my thinking and experimenting with coaching, managing, and working with creative teams. I am an Agile enthusiast and a student of Design Thinking – both are approaches toward development which I feel are aligned with what I have experienced, learned, and understand about people, change, and collaboration (teams).

For you, perhaps the site is a place to explore as well, and share with me your thinking, your challenges, your experimentation and your learning. I would welcome that.

Or, perhaps you are finding yourself challenged in your business or organization, around people management, project management, teams or leadership or strategy or process. I would like to offer my help. I’d be willing to listen, consult, coach, and collaborate on solutions to get you and your team moving forward again.

FYI: This is my first real, personal, site or blog, my first foray as an independent into the shared realm of learning and understanding that is the Internet. I am uncertain! And it is guaranteed that this will all change! But that is just how it is, and part of the fun : )