Collaboration: Opening Up Strange New Worlds

Created on June 15, 2022
by Dr. Jessica Helsten, PMP, PSM

The crews have changed. Different captains have occupied “the chair.” Uniforms have explored every option on the color wheel.

Yet one thing remains consistent for all Star Trek crews – from the newest back to the original serving under Captain Kirk.

To “boldly go where no one has gone before,” it takes a team of people willing to collaborate.

You can’t do it alone.

A Corporate Crew

How often do three independent companies collaborate?

I once worked with two other companies on a blockchain proof of concept. We were all at different points of understanding the technology. None of us had used it to share information outside of our organizations.

We collaborated by sharing knowledge and expertise. Together, we produced a working prototype that none of us would have been able to do on our own.

The Highest Form of Teamwork

Collaboration is the highest form of teamwork.

Merriam-Webster defines collaboration as “the work and activity of a number of persons who individually contribute toward the efficiency of the whole.”

Aristotle said, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Sounds good, right?

Something magical happens when a group of people comes together for a common purpose.

A Project Symphony

I remember sitting in a conference room at the start of a project. We all introduced ourselves and told how many years of experience we had. There was a combined total of hundreds of years of experience in that room.

Concerts are created by collaboration. Picture each person as an instrument in an orchestra coming together and melding their unique and diverse perspectives, experiences, and thoughts into a symphony.


Are there downsides to collaboration?

The word has synonyms with not-so-nice connotations: collusion and fraternizing.

The second definition I found for collaboration was “traitorous cooperation with an enemy.”


So how can we avoid bad collaboration?

In his book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Robert Fulghum said, “share everything” and “live a balanced life—learn some and think some.“

So, maybe we don’t share everything but find a middle ground where we come together to create something new from each person’s knowledge and experience, like tiles coming together to form a beautiful mosaic.

Successful Collaboration Ideas

Here are some ideas I have seen work well for achieving successful collaboration:


What do you want to accomplish, and in what timeframe?


What skills are needed to bring the vision to fruition?


How will you get it done? What process will you use? Waterfall? Agile?


Parking egos at the door and synergistically bringing vision, knowledge, and execution together to achieve the goal. I believe all of these pieces need to be there for success.

Stalled Project

As an example, I came into an organization for a project that had been stalled for eight months. The vision was there, but the deep system knowledge and execution to get the project moving were missing.

We took an Agile approach and went after the more manageable project goals first. The team agreed on the minimal viable product (MVP) and quickly rolled that out. We used the early buzz of that success (along with some good branding and marketing) to gain momentum in accomplishing the more complex project goals.

We reported our progress to executives every month. The project was so successful we started getting questions like, “What is this?” and “How can we be part of it?”

Small But Mighty

Our team of five included:

  • A solution architect
  • Two developers
  • A product owner
  • A scrum master

We had differing backgrounds with varying years of experience and levels of knowledge of the software we were implementing.

But we came together with mutual regard for each other and a shared mission to solve problems in a timely, repeatable fashion.

Although we reported to different departments and worked in different buildings, we collocated for a month to brainstorm in what was akin to the sprint planning ceremony in Agile. After collaborating over several four-week sprint cycles, we worked together like a highly-practiced racecar pit crew.

Or a crew of the Starship Enterprise.

A Relevant Model

My recent projects are SAP S/4HANA implementations. The model still applies:


Digital Business Transformation with SAP S/4HANA.


A team of consultants with industry and business backgrounds partnered with client subject matter experts.


A proven methodology that closely follows SAP Activate Methodology, a combination of Waterfall and Agile.


A seamless partnership between the client, SAP, and an experienced SI.

Should You Choose To Accept It

Your mission?

Sign the NDA, yes. But leave your lanyard at the door.

Join together with others who can bring valuable skills and knowledge to the effort.

Bring your knowledge. And your vision.

But be open to strange new ideas.

And let’s go.



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