Planning teamwork – 10 questions for a “collaboration pre-nup” before you start a project

The original version of this post first appeared on the Trellis blog. This is a revised version with some additions.

Last May, I attended was the 4-day Science of Team Science conference where the focus was on what we can learn about collaboration within science.

The opening workshop was a grounding in the fundamentals of team science – including discussing the pitfalls of team-based projects and how to communicate effectively when team members may come from diverse specialisms with their own sets of jargon and beliefs.

I particularly enjoyed Kara Hall’s 10 steps to consider when planning a team – which listed everything from assessing whether you have the technology in place to get your collaborative work done, to whether you have clearly outlined conflict resolution strategies if things go wrong.

I’ve captured the tweets from the session (mostly me, I’m afraid) in this Storify.

Kara initially had 6 things to consider when deciding whether a team-based approach was appropriate:

  1. Identify a unifying, over-arching problem, then:
  2. Identify smaller projects that help accomplish the aim.
  3. Carefully compose sub-project teams with requisite expertise (big teams get unwieldly).
  4. Aim to create balanced representation within team – include boundary spanners to bridge between sub-projects.
  5. Informal and formal leaders exist in every team – discuss explicitly and make roles and responsibilities clear.
  6. Not everyone can play nice within a team collaboration – consider whether better not to include them.

Do you know what you’re signing up for with a new team-based project?
Image credit:


Later in the same session, she listed 10 items to consider as part of a “collaboration pre-nup” that would help ensure that any subsequent teamwork went smoothly:

  1. The rationale for a team approach to the problem – and what configuration to use (see above for thoughts on sub-projects for specific tasks)
  2. Are the individuals, team as a unit, and organisations involved all “collaboration ready“? What past history is there?
  3. Is the team “technologically ready” for a collaborative project – do they have communication tools and data sharing tools set up?
  4. How will the team function? Will it use a “co-creation” approach to working together on the problem?
  5. How will communication between team members occur? What does collaboration look like in this team?
  6. What about leadership and management of the team’s processes? What will this look like?
  7. What about conflict resolution? Discuss this upfront in case problems arise with working together.
  8. Create a training plan for team members throughout the various stages of the project.
  9. How will you ensure quality control throughout the project – and that standards continue to improve based on learnings?
  10. What about funding and budget management for the team – what resources for the project are there?


Does this list of 10 considerations reflect how you’ve organised any of your own team-based projects – and/or do you wish you’d seen it earlier? Do you think these pointers apply when managing solely online communities too?

2 thoughts on “Planning teamwork – 10 questions for a “collaboration pre-nup” before you start a project

  1. Pingback: URLs of wisdom – June 30th 2017 – Social in silico

  2. Pingback: 2017 on Social in silico – Social in silico

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