The collaboration of the Art and Science security team
In the first article of this series, we admitted that collaboration between internal teams is often difficult, and the first step to finding a solution is to understand that the problem exists. And we decided that diplomacy was a good approach.
We assume our communication skills are sharp because we all speak English. But language is culture-based communication, not an exact science.
When we try to communicate between different teams, we encounter language problems. Bridging these language barriers is one of our primary goals. Before looking at how to overcome language problems in the workplace, let’s take the example of conventional language learning.
Analyze the interlanguage
When we learn a second language, we take new information from that language and insert it into the language we already know. The result is what linguists call an interlanguage.
Wikipedia defines an interlanguage as: “an idiolect which has been developed by a learner of a second language (or L2) which preserves certain characteristics of his first language (or L1), and may also overgeneralize certain writing rules and expression of the L2”. It sounds complicated, but it means we take new information and place it in a framework (our native language) that we understand.
Focus on similarities, not differences
This interlanguage is unique to the learner — no one creates the same interlanguage. And that’s a good analogy to the language issues we face as we diplomatically strive to get our teams to communicate effectively.
As interlanguages vary from individual to individual, a good exercise at the start of any collaborative endeavor is to find common ground. One way is to ask participants to create lists of essential terms.
Many “team building” exercises do this, but when trying to bring together different teams with different goals, it’s a good idea to steer collaboration away from the type of verbiage that team building often seeks to put in place. before.
Resist the urge to promote terms that focus on teamwork, etc. Instead, focus on getting your different teams to list their priorities — with the goal of collaborating.
Remember that interlanguages vary. No two people will have the same set of words.
In terms of priority, an accountant, for example, might list “spreadsheet” and “profit/loss” as critical terms, while a programmer might list “algorithm” and “API.” But you don’t know what specific terms are used by your different teams until you ask them.
There is no magic formula for creating these lists: all companies are different. You can start by asking a group to list their most important daily terms, then their most critical monthly terms. Keep sessions light and fun, and encourage brainstorming and open discussion.
This beginning exercise is successful for two reasons:
1) Everyone likes to talk about their work.
2) It breaks the ice and gets people talking to each other.
What we do is define our terms. Accountants can answer questions on their spreadsheets while programmers explain why algorithms are essential. This gets different teams talking to each other and shows how each group uses their terms to define their priorities.
Gathering teams for collaboration starts with nervousness. First, remember that many skilled workers are not talkative by nature. They may also be intimidated by more outgoing individuals on other teams.
One of the first strategies emphasizes collaborative innovation – the synergy that often results from the convergence of divergent viewpoints. Your teams may speak different languages initially, but let them think things through once you get them talking to each other.
Many strategies encourage participants to think creatively. Sometimes the best early strategies are simple, non-threatening exercises: for example, having your team plan a lunch or other informal event for the other team. The goal is to get your people talking and encouraging them to come up with non-traditional ideas.
Encourage the shy
Remember that many people are shy in groups. Some people are introverted and may think they don’t have any useful information for the group. But often these employees have the most to offer and should be given every opportunity to contribute.
Make it a priority to encourage all employees to speak openly and directly with you and their peers. Your goal is to create an environment that values constructive feedback and open communication.
It’s not always easy, but keep your eyes on the prize. An open environment can help your team avoid misunderstandings and deal with issues as they arise, rather than letting them become bigger issues.
Emphasize the importance of respecting the opinions of others and being professional. As your teams have their priorities, you may need to mediate a disagreement or two. If teams feel in a relaxed atmosphere and their opinions are respected, these flare-ups will be easier to manage.
Diplomats and teachers
Remember that every language learner creates their interlanguage as part of the learning process. But these ad hoc the languages are not so different from each other. Let’s focus on the similarities, not the differences.
We are diplomats in our goal of collaboration. But we are teachers who want to see our students succeed.
This article is the second in a series on effective collaboration techniques for cybersecurity.
Stefan Hammond is editor of CDOTrends. Best practices, IOT, payment gateways, robotics and the ongoing fight against cyber-hackers pique his interest. You can reach him at [email protected].
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