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National Cancer Institute

21st Century Techniques for Achieving Collaboration Despite the Hidden Cirriculum

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Wade D. 21st Century Techniques for Achieving Collaboration Despite the Hidden Cirriculum. Oral presentation at 2017 SciTS Conference. Clearwater Beach, FL. Jun 13, 2017. Evaluating and Enhancing Team Processes. Online at:

In her Science of Team Science 2014 keynote, Carole Goble noted “Open Research Practice is increasingly like Open Source Software Practice.” This is one example of a co-informing between Interdisciplinary Research (IDR) and Interdisciplinary Product Development (IPD). Another example is adherence to practices and paradigms that fail to advance the team’s agenda – “because that’s the way we have always done it.” Both domains are characterized by differentiated roles and specialized knowledge; task interdependence; dynamic workflows adapting to changing contexts; and the interplay of tacit and explicit knowledge. In IPD these characteristics have historically given rise to team coordination and communication challenges, time and budget overruns, and failures at the points of integration. Some IPD team practices could offer insight into effective practices for Interdisciplinary Research teams. However, many IPD practices -- while well established and still widely used -- have their roots in 1970’s-era projects. Such practices are based on a “project management” paradigm: centralized, role-based management of project team members’ communication, coordination, and integration activities. Today, this paradigm achieves only mediocre results in mitigating the issues it was intended to address, especially at scale. The differences between the intended and actual outcomes of this project management paradigm result from the hidden curriculum of Interdisciplinary Product Development, and includes such symptoms as: -- Over-focus on inputs (e.g. large-scale up-front plans or team “kickoff” events), which builds additional delay into projects and fails to noticeably improve team mental models. What value that is created by these initial activities tends to decay rapidly as it becomes out-of-date. -- Enforcement of team compliance to procedures and standards that restrict cross-discipline innovation, reinforce existing social silos, and create cumbersome decision-making hierarchies. These hierarchies decouple information, decision points, and action, which adds further cost, delay, and risk. -- The Project Manager role, intended to be a “communication hub,” suffers from information overload. Their responsibility for the management of explicit information about task-work, status, time and budget is impeded by the hidden curriculum of IPD team-work, accountability without authority, and a geometrically scaling network of interpersonal communication and social interactions. Near the beginning of the 21st century, IPD best practices underwent a paradigm shift which could inform effective collaboration on IDR projects. These practices are based on a paradigm of decentralized coordination, work-state signaling, and team focus. IPD adoption of these practices is growing rapidly due to their demonstrated ability to avoid historical project management problems, even on complex projects. Several of this paradigm’s most successful project team coordination techniques are revealed, including: 1. Workflow visualization as a means of offloading Project Manager and team member cognition; 2. Bounded work to reduce multitasking, increase productivity, facilitate formation of team shared mental models, and manage time/cost; and 3. Feedback loops/cadence for better visibility and responsiveness, both amongst the team members and from outside the project. Guidance in applying these techniques, gained from 20 years of IPD field experience, is provided for avoiding common pitfalls such as “tool overload,” disruption of existing standards/procedures, and misapplication of predefined process frameworks.



Type of Publication:

Oral presentation


scits 2017 conference, presentation, techniques

Addresses these goal(s):

  • Establish or maintain effective team science endeavors
  • Enhance team performance, interactions, and attitudes
  • Conduct research on/evaluate team science

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Resource created by Jane Hwang on 10/3/2017 1:52:25 PM.

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