Chapter 5. Make a Plan

One misconception about collaboration is that it’s a freewheeling effort where teams are encouraged to work free from rules and processes that might constrain them. It’s tempting, especially when the problem has a number of unknowns, to just get the group together and dive in, because it’s true that we want individuals freed to participate. But the effort? That takes planning. In this chapter, we’ll look at ways to provide the right amount and kind of structure to help teams focus and avoid interpersonal clashes that arise out of stress. Structure comes from the natural cycle of idea development, and from establishing clear periods of time to start, complete, and reflect on work. Providing a plan to stakeholders also helps give the team enough cover to actually do work instead of fending off questions about when they will be done.

Creating a plan simply means stating what you think will happen, what steps you think are needed, and some idea of how long things will take. It’s common for some people to shun this step, because there’s often no way to know ahead of time what will happen and when. I emphasize with those I coach that when planning, you’re just making your best guess at what will happen, and as the person closest to the situation, your guess is probably better than anyone else’s. Creating a plan isn’t about controlling every step of the process, especially when the situation is complex and unpredictable. To help teams maintain focus, take some ...

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