Cracking Collaboration
ATD Blog

Cracking the Collaboration Code

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

In an earlier blog posts, I introduced 11 operating principles that serve as the first part of an operating platform that can be used to help people practice genuine team collaboration on the job: 




  1. Focus on team, not position. 
  2. Understand that everyone can play. 
  3. Embrace diversity. 
  4. Rely on each other. 
  5. Promote both individual and team values. 
  6. Seek skillful, adaptable players. 
  7. Charge the team to perform the work. 
  8. Empower players to win 
  9. Coach teams to respond to changing conditions on their own. 
  10. Develop partners on the field. 
  11. Achieve cross-cultural agility. 

Once understood, they must become habits for people on teams to develop! 
The second part of the operating platform used by highly effective teams consists of a series of competencies focused on collaboration, aligned with each of the operating principles. For example, competencies aligned to the operating principle rely on each other are relationship building, team management, and team player. 


The operating principles serve as the foundational part for developing an alternative mindset, while the competencies focused on collaboration serve to develop the skill set for practicing genuine team collaboration. Again, combined they provide the operating platform needed to develop a mindset that helps shape decisions regarding competencies focused on collaboration, leading to improved team effectiveness. 

The idea of developing an alternative mindset is something that must be learned. Why? Most people function with a mindset that supports group work, which is more about cooperating or coordinating with others. Expecting people to switch mindsets on demand—like switching out software—is not realistic. 


The process for cracking the collaboration code starts with training. In 2016, a new training program called the Collaboration Game was launched to help people develop an alternative mindset for applying a skill set focused on collaboration competencies. Using a board game simulation, people are placed on small teams to function with a mindset that supports the application of collaboration competencies. To learn more about the program, go to  

Once people are trained, the process calls for committing them to coaching using this operating platform. The process is highly personalized, with action plans created to match up with targeted competencies once individual strengths have been assessed. From there, it’s a case of using coaching to help reinforce learning and future development. 

Note that a key challenge for the team coach is convincing people on the team that high performance is needed for the task—and it can only be achieved when the team functions in a way that recognizes the “interdependent” nature of the relationship on the team. Anything short of that recognition will not result in high performance! 

In the end, it’s all about developing mindset before skill set to have a chance at cracking the collaboration code.

About the Author

Winsor Jenkins is president of Winsor Jenkins & Associates, LLC, based in Portland, Oregon. As a leader who served in senior HR positions and contributed to the professional development of countless business executives, including HR managers, Winsor brings a deep knowledge about what it takes to achieve executive-level leadership in today's changing business landscape. He is the author of The Collaborator: Discover Soccer as a Metaphor for Global Business Leadership.

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