Building Cohesion

Building relationships and trust, Group cohesion, Deepening understanding of each other and the collaborative terrain

The dynamic process designer needs to have a variety of methods to use in helping the group navigate the tasks in each Stage, so as to build relationships and trust at each step of the process. This includes using the additional information gained in each stage of actioning the collaboration to update and refine the various systems maps started in Stage One – Preparation.  Onboarding new members, and learning sessions at the end of each stage are also opportunities to reinforce areas of mutual gain, mutual interest and to identify gaps or potential transitions that may have been invisible in previous stages.

Deepening group cohesion as the process evolves is critical to achieving real and sustained ability to navigate the challenges of collaborations on the right side of the Inter-organization Collaboration Continuum as these stages require a group of people to navigate together the increased ambiguity, conflicting goals and objectives, and emergent strategies.

As organizations join, or decide to leave, and as representatives at the table change, using celebrations for those leaving, and onboarding for those coming in is an important part of this process. This involves readiness for ‘2 steps forward 1 step back’ process –  finding a way to step back so the group can both bring them along to what’s been developed, and open to evolving the design to take advantage of some aspect that the new representative or new organization. A mental visual such as knowing that the ocean advances and retreats iteratively as the tide comes in and out can help neutralize the general hope that a straight-line progress is the proper trajectory for progress.  

The prototyping process and visual Terrain maps can be an advantage to this as it provides a number of advantages:

  • Earlier concrete examples of collective decisions, which are easier to describe and explain to collaborating organizations and their constituencies
  • To add the benefit of the new project’s strengths to make the next iteration better
  • To provide a catalyst for celebrating small wins to bring awareness of achievement and build momentum

The double diamond process inherent to design is one way to have each stage attend to multiple dimensions – the task as well as the four process aspects of a complex collaboration.   

The Ladder of Participation is a helpful tool when for engaging parties outside the core collaboration, or for engaging different types of parties in the development / decision making – e.g. student associations, because it helps participants to be clear on the level of involvement they will have.