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Finding Collaboration through Best Practices

Today I want to talk a bit about what I'll call, for these purposes, standards and best practices. What constitutes a best practice sometimes can be handled with a degree of subjectivity, depending on the environment. Best practices often include the "tips and tricks" of seasoned employees as well as the more public-facing recommended best use of supported services. What we call standards or policies are generally able to achieve a bit more objectivity through the codification and agreements from which documentation and training practices would presumably be informed.

I've been thinking a lot about these issues following a couple of months filled with hiring, training, and motivating employees before and carrying into our start of the school year. As we prepare to move forward with promoting a team member to a more management-level position, I'm using the time available as things gradually start to slow down to make sure our "house is in order," so to speak, before we invite someone else inside. In other words, my head's been focused a lot on best practices and standards.

I have the great fortune of finding myself in an environment characterized by a great sense of collaboration, due at least partially to our focus on project management. I am frequently impressed with the tremendous volume of progress and work our small teams of highly-qualified professionals can achieve by working together.

In this environment, there may be a tendency to rely more on what we'd call tribal knowledge or, in other words, shared information disseminated through casual and informal means like word-of-mouth. However, I'm also fortunate that my environment recognizes the importance of writing things down even if that's sometimes easier to recommend than it may be to implement.

In any case, we have a thriving knowledge-base and collection of public-facing articles. We even have some pretty great training resources. Where I'd ideally like to focus our resources going forward is continuing to leverage our knowledge-base to fully encapsulate, as much as possible, the totality of what we're expected to regularly support and the best practices for how that support should ideally be provided. From that firm foundation, new training resources can be modeled and perfected.

Like many things, I think the real value here lies more in the spirit of accomplishing (rather than the accomplishments themselves) these goals of building a rich collection of best practices and more formal recommendations. To put this a different way, it's the journey more than the destination that matters the most. This is especially true because, in this case, participation in the shared process of documenting our recommendations will lead to improving how each and every one of us perform in our daily routines.

That collaboration will enable us to transcend that phenomenon often plaguing support environments: what I'll call the I'm-on-an-island-by-myself syndrome. To me, this syndrome really is the analogue to collaboration. Instead of working together, we forget to recognize the others ready to share knowledge and insight or help us efficiently provide support. One of my strongest beliefs is that we're always going to be more successful when we work together.

Collaboration also helps us ensure we're on the same page. Not only will we be less likely to perceive ourselves to effectively be on a support-island the next time we're stuck, we'll also be less likely to think we're doing something the same as the rest of our team when that may not actually be the case.

What's the best way to collaborate? We can start with writing down the things we do (and the ways we do them) then move forward with establishing best practices, standards, or policies as needed. Doing so will guarantee a common base-line from which we can not only assume we're all on the same page, but also ensure a shared expectation for support. Once we get all of that in motion, we may never summon Captain Planet, but, it may help to close by paraphrasing that show's tagline: with our powers combined, the possibilities of what we can accomplish together will be endless.