Book Reviews

How to Make Collaboration Work

by Donna S. McCaw Assistant Professor of Educational Administration, Western Illinois University, Macomb, Ill.

Effectively organizing a meeting is not a difficult skill to learn. Yet in a recent survey of first-year administrators it was identified as one of the most challenging aspects of their jobs.

New administrators quickly discover the stress-filled difference between planning an agenda and facilitating an open dialogue where a process is followed that builds consensus, strengthens the school improvement planning process and enhances the collaborative climate of the learning community. Process awareness is essential for handling difficult strategic moments.

In How to Make Collaboration Work: Powerful Ways to Build Consensus, Solve Problems and Make Decisions, David Straus, founder of Interaction Associates, offers grounded processes and a doable place to begin. The knowledge and skills that will assist today’s facilitative leader—group memory, process mapping, rings of involvement, phase-by-phase consensus building and the stages of discussion model—are explained with the busy leader in mind. The author effectively uses visual graphics to explain some complex processes.

Straus’s list of 64 heuristics (strategies that are flexible and quick) will give the reader a wide variety of tactics. Some readers might conclude that more explanation should have been given to the list of heuristics. Yet collaborative leaders do not need more information than can be realistically discussed, practiced and reflected upon.

Straus’s work will facilitate group discussions. The reality of the No Child Left Behind legislation almost mandates collaborative work toward continuous school improvement. This book is a functional place to begin.

(How to Make Collaboration Work: Powerful Ways to Build Consensus, Solve Problems and Make Decisions, by David Straus, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 2002, 229 pp., $14.95 softcover. Available from