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The problem

There was a discussion in the group “PM community” about collaboration metrics. In the various comments, it became clear that collaboration is a ‘fuzzy’ concept and there are multiple ‘definitions’ in use; and that there is a difference between ‘average collaboration’ and ‘good collaboration’.

In all projects and programmes, it is important to follow up on how people are performing, and collaboration is a key word here. Of course PM’s have a very clear idea of how well their team(s) are doing, but – as the discussion seems to indicate – they are at a loss on how to “show” it, how to make their gut feelings more explicit.

How not to solve it

Many of the contributions suggested “hard” measures that could be tallied, such as “number of outdated posts on the wiki”, “productivity against budget” and “number of co-worker complaints”.

Some of the contributors were aware that these measures are indirect, and should be seen only as indicators of (lack of) cooperation, not as a direct metric of cooperation itself.

Why it does not work like you think it would

In our culture we have a real bias toward “hard” metrics, but if that means that our metrics become “indirect” as compared to what we’re actually trying to measure, then we’re only shifting the problem toward the interpretation of our metrics. We haven’t solved anything, and actually may have obscured the solution even more.

What you should do

Your understanding of what it is you’re measuring, will help you derive what are valid or valuable metrics. So it starts with asking yourself: what exactly is cooperation? And your definition must meet the following criteria: it must not be fuzzy, and it must allow of differentiating ‘average collaboration’ from ‘good collaboration’.

My understanding of collaboration as “a group of people who share the same drives and contribute to the same deliverable(s) using the same coordination practice(s)” leads me to the following things to measure:

* assess the level of shared drives/motivation/values among the people
* assess the level of shared understanding of how each person’s output contributes to the final deliverable
* assess the level of overlap in the coordination practices used by all people/teams who should cooperate

Asking these questions in trying to measure cooperation, will very likely influence your team’s awareness of where they are at the moment, so it is actually also an intervention. Therefore, be careful how you formulate your questions and avoid any implied accusations.