Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Process for Virtual Collaborative Design

Based on the inputs described in my last post, here is a possible model for a Virtual Collaboration Process.

1. Assemble a Core Team
Instead of gathering 50 or 100 or more participants for a multi-day session, we will start by assembling a Core Team of decision-makers. This might be 10-20 people, and should include some diversity.

2. Define Objectives and Outputs
The Core Team will work with us to define their objectives for this collaborative process and the output they want to receive at the end of the project. We will also define with this group the diverse perspectives that we want to explore through this process (stakeholders, time frames, models of solutions, etc.)

3. Distributed Model-Building
The Core Team will then distribute model-building assignments to small teams and individuals throughout the organization (and beyond). These teams will be asked to spend a small amount of time to build a model, document their work and send their outputs (models) back to the Core Team. This activity could be assigned to existing project teams or other groups. They could be asked by top management to spend an hour on this task during a regularly-scheduled meeting. We can engage a very large population with very little disruption to normal operations.

4. Processing the Models
The Core Team will then have to explore the models that have been created and use them in some way. The Core team would then send out the next round of assignments to the same or different teams throughout the organization. The outputs from these teams is again returned to the Core Team for processing.
This process can engage a huge population, but the primary transformation, insights and decision-making will happen in the Core Team. They are the only group that sees all of the divergent models being created. They are the only group exploring the ramifications of these different models. The Core Team will need to get together periodically during this process, but much of their work can be handled remotely as well. This will significantly decrease the client's cost for travel, lodging, etc. compared to large face-to-face meetings while at the same time increasing the breadth of participation and the depth of the exploration of divergent perspectives.

This process looks very different than a traditional face-to-face collaborative experience. But it uses the same core principles to achieve superior results through different tools and methods.

Here is a short video explaining the whole process:

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