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Collaborate like the Jedi Council

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Collaborate like the Jedi Council

Collaboration is hard work. Clearly communicating what you want to accomplish requires time, energy, and planning; unless, of course, you’re a Jedi. For a Jedi, a simple wave of the hand and the weak of mind do exactly as you request.

For everyone else, millions of dollars of productivity are lost each year because of failures of communication. Whether it’s employees being terminated because a manager doesn’t believe that they are performing well enough or employees running for the door because they don’t believe in their manager. The cost is astounding and a massive percentage of it could be avoided through better communication and collaboration.

Is being a Jedi really the easiest management job in the world? Did Obi-Wan simply envision the outcome and the path to achieve it and Anakin just knew what he intended? Learning to collaborate like Masters of the Jedi Council such as Yoda and Mace Windu takes time; here are some keys to collaboration we can learn from the Jedi:

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1. It takes time

“Patience you must have my young Padawan.” – Master Yoda

You can’t expect a Padawan to be a Jedi Master in a month. The Jedi Order has long required a lengthy apprenticeship, typically over a decade. Imagine how aligned your thinking would be if you and your mentor, apprentice, or boss spent 10 weeks doing every job together, let alone ten years!

Early on in the Padawan and Master relationship the Master Jedi leads and the Padawan follows, no questions asked. The expectation is clear that this is how things will remain for some time. This level of delegation requires strong leadership from the Master and extremely clear direction and relentless follow up. During the early days of these relationships they are less collaborative, however it builds the basis of trust and is a foundational transfer of knowledge.

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Be patient with your team members, especially when they’re new. Ask yourself the following questions: “Have I clearly set expectations?”, “Does Anakin (or insert Padawan or associate’s name) know how I like to communicate?”, and “Have I clearly conveyed the goal and why it’s important?”.

2. Focus on the “Why” before the “How”

“It’s against my programming to impersonate a deity.” – C-3PO

In Empire Strikes Back, while Luke Skywalker is trapped in the ice plains of Hoth he is visited by the ghost of his early mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi and told to travel to Dagobah to train under his old master Yoda. When Luke arrives on Dagobah, Yoda’s focus is on helping young Skywalker understand the importance of controlling the Force and not on how use a light saber. Yoda is constantly seeking to get Luke to understand the “why” rather than the “how” of controlling the Force.

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Before embarking on your next project, take the time to align everyone’s understanding of what you are working towards. Strive to show how each part is essential to the overall success and why this project is important to the company and each of the team member’s individually. Once C-3PO understood the “why” behind impersonating a god in front of the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi, he easily executed the technical skills necessary to achieve the “how”.

3. Write it down

“If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist.” – Jocasta Nu

Despite the strength of the Force even the Jedi have a centralized repository of information. Located on Coruscant in the Jedi Temple are the Jedi Archives, a place where any Jedi can seek out the laws and knowledge of the Order, and the universe.

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Just as the Jedi need a central place to store information so does your team. Collaboration requires it. Whether your team works from a shared Google Doc, a white board, or a project management software (be it Kanbanchi, Asana, Basecamp or anything other – you name it) the likelihood of a team collaborating effectively if they are in the dark is low. A centralized information site allows parties to see progress (a key element of motivation) who is responsible for what task, and therefore where to direct questions, in addition to what to expect down the road.

Even with the power of the Force to aid them, the Jedi have to work to collaborate effectively. By being patient, taking the time to clearly communicate your needs, explaining why the team is doing what they’re doing, and then creating a forum to share information, and track progress you will be well on your way to collaborating like the Jedi Council. May the Force be with you.

Featured photo credit: The Jedi Council near the end of the Clone Wars via starwars.wikia.com

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