Failures of collaboration in the care and education of children are all over the news and social media. Catastrophic consequences of breakdown of communications and failed team working have been reported. On a daily basis a lack of joined up working is frustrating and limiting for children, parents and professionals across services. We all know team working and collaboration is important but it is also difficult. Here is a secret for effective collaboration. In any meeting or intervention, whether you are the parent, a teacher, health care professional or social worker:
Focus on why: not what!
The Team around the Family (TAF) exists to facilitate good outcomes for the child and family. Each member of the team brings their unique skill and knowledge (including the child and family). To often individuals are focused on what they want done or what they ‘have to do’ or wont do. This is perhaps driven by commissioning and available funds. Or sometimes by an individual who is very enthusiastic about one particular strategy or treatment. The team should start with a why question. What is our purpose? or Where are we trying to get to? What outcome are we aiming for?
When a team plays a match. The outcome they want is victory. They have to play together to win. There are many elements to the game. It is not all about corner kicks or rapid passes. The attack is not more important than the defence. If the defence is struggling then an attacker will get back to defend and vica versa. For professionals working with children it should be the same the outcome wanted should dictate our actions and tasks.
It is easy in sport to identify the outcome but life is more complex. How does the TAF identify the overall desired outcome? The child and family need to be central to this. Here is another analogy.
In taking a boat journey with a rowing crew someone needs to set the overall direction. I believe that should be the child and parents. To get to the ultimate destination a complex route may be required with different team members calling the strokes on different occasions. The odd occasional oar clash is perhaps inevitable even with the best of crews. The team have to work together and know their part. At times in the back and and others up front.
Remember to remember the why?!