Relationships are of critical importance in any collaboration; without them, all best efforts will be in vain. Time invested in establishing good working relationships is thus time very well spent.
Case Study Example: Social Activities
All of the eChina-UK project members found that strong interpersonal relationships were crucial for effective collaboration. They spent considerable amounts of time getting to know each other socially, such as having meals together, going on sightseeing trips, meeting each other’s families and chatting about a wide range of topics. This relationship building was a vital element of each project, and laid the foundation for the effective management of ‘strategic moments’ (Canney Davison and Ward, 1999). The trust that had been gradually built up over time enabled them to resolve any differences more easily and to achieve fruitful outcomes. However, they all found that senior managers regularly underestimated the importance of rapport building and the time needed for that purpose. One of the project members commented as follows:
Separated by enormous physical distance, as well as by language, context and cultural difference, we sought from the outset to find common ground on which to build productive relationships. Regular visits between China and the UK enabled various team members to build both working and – equally importantly – social relationships. Whilst it is recognised that building social relationships serves to strengthen developing working relationships, it should likewise be acknowledged that this relies heavily on the willingness of team members to give of their free time, outside the boundaries of any given project. The value of this 'voluntary' input outside formal working time should not be underestimated, nor remain unacknowledged. There is a social dimension to effective team building that should ideally be built into the project.
Tip: At the beginning of a project, spend time socialising with your partners and getting to know them personally. Gradually build the relationship as the project progresses.
Canney Davison, S. & Ward, K. (1999). Leading International Teams. London: McGraw Hill.