I recently had a situation where two teams based in two different locations had to start working together on a project. While waiting for a planned face to face meeting between them, I used the following technique to prepare each team for the upcoming meeting.
When establishing a new co-operation with another team, each team has
- Wishes it would like to realise
- Messages it would like to send
- Questions it would like to ask
And each of the three categories apply to
- The other team
- Your team
- Management (or whoever establishes the boundary conditions for the new setup)
This can be effectively pictured with a matrix like the one below that the team will slowly fill up by working together or in small groups and discussing then the results with the full team.
By using this method I got very interesting results: one team remained very focused and produced a lot of data, the other less, but with insightful discussions along the way. In both cases I believe it generated a lot of insights for the teams that will be very useful for them in the near future.
A caveat: make the discussion happen in a safe environment. Make it clear that, whatever the people come up with will be communicated to the other team and to management only and to the extent that they will decide. Just because a new topic comes up, it doesn’t mean that it will automatically end up in the hands of their boss: the team and each individual in the team have the power of veto on this information.