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My book review this week is on Collaborate by Tom Morkes. In this book, Morkes outlines his approach for building a team of people who wish to collaborate on a business venture. Much of the book is specifically about the process of building a product or service to sell, rather than the art of collaboration, but there are still a number of great takeaways.

  • The concept of Azimuth checks – this is a technique borrowed from the US Army – and specifically refers to a process in land navigation – of identifying where you are and comparing it with where you want to be. An Azimuth check helps teams determine whether they are on the right path.
  • When we move from the concrete to the abstract, perception becomes a larger factor in how people see and hear things. It’s important for teams to find a way to validate that everyone is hearing and seeing the same things.
  • Clear communications are vital for effective collaboration. He talks about the need to define expectations in writing. He suggests that teams agree on the parameters for each major activity, which he calls milestones. Parameters offer a decision making framework when questions arise. For example, are relationships more important than sales? Is quality more important than margin? Is learning more important than financial returns?
  • Conflict resolution needs to begin with defining the problem or issue. The goal is to take the conversation away from who is right or wrong, to how do we solve the problem and move forward.
  • Teams need to outline/define their operating system. While team norms can evolve over time, as the project unfolds, teams have a choice of being proactive, or not. Being proactive is likely to result in a healthier culture.