The Datamax Thinking Blog

Educating, collaborating, and sparking ideas for maximizing the technology that matters.

Seven Common Ground Rules for Effective Collaboration


Regular collaboration is a powerful tool in staying fresh within your organization and within your industry. After all, two – or more – heads are usually better than one.

My front yard flowerbed is perpetually on the brink of being overtaken by weeds.

Just as quickly as I can remove the Greenbrier vine, the pesky East Texas weed is already poking its way back through the soil, wrapping around my boxwood shrubs and Azaleas (whose blooms have me daydreaming about the upcoming Masters Tournament). Regular care and maintenance is a necessity if I want to achieve desired growth in my yard.

Providing Managed Services or even Copier Service can be a lot like my flowerbed.

Any organization’s habits need constant attention. Beyond just the risk of becoming stale, the way we do business (the tools we utilize and our regular methodologies) can become ineffective and unsightly without regularly checking in on them.  

Regular collaboration is a powerful tool in staying fresh within your organization and within your industry. After all, two – or more – heads are usually better than one. Even more powerful? Collaborating with those with which you share common ground, those with share your same values, objectives and goals.

Make no mistake: Brainstorming takes work. In an IT World article, the author offers several “Ground rules” for brainstorming sessions to ensure they are efficient, worthwhile and effective.

Common ground rules from a productivity groundskeeper:

1. Agree on the clear objective(s) of the brainstorming - Ensure everyone agrees on and understands the overall objectives of the session.

2. Treat everyone as equals - Play no favorites. Use a round-robin technique of asking every person for their input; if they have none, quickly acknowledge them and move on to the next person. When input is offered, do not question it initially. That can come later. Just record the input and spend no more than a few seconds at this point with any individual.

3. Listen respectfully to each person's input - Everyone's input is important. Treat it as such.

4. Participate honestly and candidly - Encourage candor and honesty. Solving problems and developing processes often involve discussions about lessons learned from what has gone wrong in the past. Encourage openness without being judgmental.

5. Maintain confidentiality when appropriate - If sensitive or personnel issues arise, ensure appropriate levels of confidentially are maintained.

6. Keep an open mind; suspend personal agendas - Do not let an individual's personal bias shut down possible solutions or proposals. Encourage new ideas and creative ideas based on common ground.

7. Stay focused on your industry-specific objective(s) - It is easy to get side-tracked in a brainstorming session, especially when highly knowledgeable and opinionated individuals are involved. Keep the group focused on the overall objectives at all times.

Common barriers to productive partnerships:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently published a whitepaper titled “Partnerships: Frameworks for Working Together.” Although the document focuses on nonprofit organizations, the information within can apply to all vertical markets looking to better collaborate, because the basic ideas remains the same: There is real value in working with other like-minded organizations.

The whitepaper states: “Through partnerships we can contribute our small part and reap the benefits of everyone’s effort; we can accelerate learning and distribute skills and knowledge; and we can add depth and breadth to our community impact. To make real the promise of partnerships, however, we must be prepared to build, sustain, and evaluate them in a thoughtful way.”

The document goes on to include “barriers to successful partnerships.”

  • Limited vision/failure to inspire
  • One partner manipulates or dominates, or partners compete for the lead
  • Lack of clear purpose and inconsistent level of understanding purpose
  • Lack of understanding roles/responsibilities
  • Lack of support from partner organizations with ultimate decision-making power
  • Differences of philosophies and manners of working
  • Lack of commitment; unwilling participants
  • Unequal and/or unacceptable balance of power and control
  • Key interests and/or people missing from the partnership
  • Hidden agendas
  • Failure to communicate
  • Lack of evaluation or monitoring systems
  • Failure to learn
  • Financial and time commitments outweigh potential benefits
  • Too little time for effective consultation

Is your organization covered in weeds?

E-Book-Template-Horizontal-Common-Ground.pngCould it run more efficiently with the added expertise of those within your own market, those who have already walked a mile in your shoes? By finding common ground, we can discuss relevant challenges and discover relevant solutions together. Now that's collaboration!

Join us for a Datamax Common Ground Lunch & Learn Series Event designed just for churches.  This event offers an open forum on specific topics relevant to your church organization and your professional community.


Topics: Technology Support Productivity Tips and Tools