Purposeful Collaboration: Step 1

Scoping and Surfacing the Things That Matter is the first of the three steps to Purposeful Collaboration:

  1. Scope & Surface
  2. Capture & Refine
  3. Measure & Progress

There are two “extremes” to avoid when looking to scope and surface the Things That Matter – giving too much context as a starting point or giving too little.

Too much context usually takes the form of using existing materials (contracts, standards, mission statements, etc) as the source of the Things That Matter.

If the scope is fully pre-defined by such materials, these materials may be appropriate “constraints”, e.g.:

  • Distilling down the ISO 44001 collaborative working standard to its underlying principles to make it more “approachable”.
  • Establishing the main capabilities an organisation needs to be able to implement the ASAP Handbook‘s alliancing methodology.

Otherwise, whilst such existing materials are often important to consider, they are not the right starting-point: they usually overly pre-judge and limit scope, and they almost always don’t capture crucial, subjective Things That Matter.

At the other end of the scale, too little context usually takes the form of “brainstorming”: this may be effective when the situation is totally open-ended – right at the start of a new initiative, perhaps – but even then people usually struggle with unlimited scope and a “blank piece of paper”.

Experience therefore shows that the easiest and most effective way to begin scoping and surfacing the Things That Matter is to run a diagnostic, which achieves the difficult middle ground between the “extremes” of giving too much and too little as a starting-point.

A diagnostic introduces real-life things to catalyse open-ended, focused and creative thinking, without assuming scope.  It also operates at a far greater scale than e.g. interviews or workshops – 100s or even 1000s of participants – all reinforced by secure online access and anonymity that encourage open feedback.

Diagnostics act as a catalyst

The Symptoms of What’s Not Working Diagnostic is the most common starting-point, focusing on issues and problems with the Things That Matter as a necessary step to remove barriers, dissipate negativity and show people that real-life issues will be addressed. Other existing diagnostics include:

  • The Value Vectors Diagnostic is an alternative starting point, focusing on values and behaviours as a way to explore culture and the opportunities that flow from the unique values profile that emerges.
  • The Sustainability Scoping Diagnostic is an example of a domain-specific diagnostic developed to help organisations understand in more depth why they might engage – or are engaging – with the sustainability/ESG agenda.

These diagnostics can also be customised or wholly new ones developed, specific to the situation, e.g. NIP developed a diagnostic with the relationship leads in a large outsourcing contract that was in trouble, helping them target areas of known problems.

Diagnostic and Artificial Intelligence (AI) analysis

Whatever the diagnostic used, the next stage is to analyse the output with a combination of the reports produced by our diagnostic framework and comment analysis (augmented by AI)

Here are samples of the report charts that highlight the most likely candidate Things That Matter – whilst there is overlap between the reports for different diagnostics, report charts vary to suit the purpose and the situation:

The candidate Things That Matter that emerge from the diagnostic reports are then refined further by expert interpretation, augmented by guided AI analysis of comments.

In this way, diagnostics effectively function as a powerful “prompting” mechanism to get the most out of the human intelligence available – prompting people to think creatively about the Things That Matter.

In addition to analysing diagnostic output, AI can be used to distil down existing materials, including the examples mentioned above – standards like ISO 44001 or methodologies such as the ASAP Handbook.

These findings are then fed forward to the next stage and can be used in the meantime to build or support a business case for change.

After all, specific issues have now been surfaced, and – with diagnostics – this has been done at scale, supported by evidence: evidence in terms of people engaging (potentially 100s of individuals), and evidence in terms of content (potentially 1000s of comments).

All of this evidence can now be made sense of and harnessed in the second step to Purposeful Collaboration, Capture & Refine:

  1. Scope and Surface
  2. Capture & Refine
  3. Measure & Progress

What this Step looks like:

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