What is collaboration?

SharePoint is a great tool supporting collaboration!!

What exactly IS collaboration?

Go ahead- define it. I’ll wait.

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Does your response looks something like this?

“Activity leading to increased efficiency”

Or “People working together to achieve a common goal”

Or maybe even, “Improving team outcomes by participating in common tasks according to best practices.”

All good tries. But esteemed SharePoint expert Paul Culmsee (@PaulCulmsee) calls those types of phrases “platitudes.” He defines them as “Words or phrases that sound impressive and correct but ultimately do not contain a lot of substance… also defined as ‘a trite or meaningless statement made to sound profound.”

Hmm. This sounds like platitude-users are knowingly trying to put one over on their listeners. This is not usually the case. Most of the time, these types of statements are made with complete sincerity, and are perceived by those making them as being the right response to a given question or situation.

But there is a problem with platitudes as goals, mission statements, vision statements, purpose statements etc., especially in the case of SharePoint. To spend a lot of money on technology and the people using it requires (usually) that the “bang for the buck” can be at least articulated, if not captured and measured and shown to prove success. Platitude statements are too vague to suffice in those circumstances. 

If your definition/purpose statement for SharePoint is anything like this: “A tool to support increased collaboration and efficiency,” there may be cause for concern. How will you know if you have accomplished either of those things?

How will you measure the results? How will you recognize a state of affairs that is any different from how it was before SharePoint came into your life?

Some other common platitudes:

  • Quality (i.e., ‘increased quality,’ ‘improved quality,’ ‘better-quality widgets’)
  • Governance (see also, ‘a governance plan’)
  • Streamline business processes
  • Improve communication

So how do you get past the fuzzy phrases? (Culmsee calls this “busting a platitude“). You have to continually ask questions like, “What does [platitude] looks like?” or, “Can you describe how [platitude] would be recognizable in your company or in the course of your daily work?” or “What are some of the behaviors displayed by people in a workplace that have [platitude]?”

Paul’s presentation goes on to explain the benefits of asking questions like this. If you’re lucky, the answers tend to start with things like, “increased this…” or “decreased that…” If so- that’s good because these responses indicate items are often inherently measurable. This means you are on the right track.

BUT- sometimes you get answers that are just another platitude! Such as, “Increased efficiency would result in better-quality widgets.”

So you must ask again. “If you had increased efficiency, what would that look like? How would we recognize that efficiency had increased? And then, how would we know that widget quality was any better than it was before?”

Anyone considering use of a product like SharePoint must be able to articulate- WITHOUT resorting to platitudes– what SharePoint is supposed to be doing in whatever context it is being used. What is your “SharePoint purpose statement?”

All responses welcome! Leave a comment and share yours.

If you have not taken the time to read Paul’s articles, you are missing out! DO it now.

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