I realize that collaboration is a big buzzword in project management and really all business strategy and delivery areas, right? Collaborate for success. The best teams collaborate. Our project teams and our projects would be performing better if we were collaborating. We’ve all heard these and about a hundred other phrases, concepts and excuses just like them, haven’t we?
But what does “collaborate” really mean? A quick online check reveals two very similar definitions:
- Work jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something
- To work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something
What is project success?
Let’s consider the main determiners of project success. In general, there are three:
On time delivery – delivering milestones, deliverables and the entire project close or on target (and early, if possible) with the agreed upon project schedule and any built-in customer hard date requirements with any timeline increase due to change orders.
On budget delivery – delivering the final product or solution as proposed financially, with any needed change order dollars figured in.
Customer satisfaction – customer satisfaction is actually going to be fairly easy to derive if you meet the first to above. On time delivery and on budget deliver will make most clients pretty happy. But even if you don’t meet those two yet still deliver a very usable solution to the project customer’s end users, they will likely still have a great deal of satisfaction in the outcome.
How does collaboration figure into the project success equation?
If you aren’t properly collaborating, then you should be. Your likelihood of success on current and future projects is much higher with a good degree of project and team collaboration with your project team, your customers and your colleagues. To get there, you must:
Manage a cohesive team. Collaboration starts with a co-operative, cohesive project team. Without the co-operation and cohesion, the project manager is just managing a scattered group of skilled people on a project… with no hope to gain any advantage that collaboration and the sharing of knowledge bring to the engagement. Decreased hope for success. Decreased likelihood of customer satisfaction and executive support and buy-in. All negatives… collaborate in order to avoid these.
Have a collaborative project management software tool. Of course you need a collaborative project management tool. One that supports multi-user access to a single project… thus allowing your designated team members to keep their assigned tasks up to date with progress and notes. These types of collaborative tools will also store key project documents and deliverables and allow for check-in and check-out as the team is peer-reviewing deliverables and documents before submitting them to the client for approval and acceptance.
Work in an organization that supports collaboration. Yes, some organizations are not as supportive as they should be in terms of productive collaboration. Collaboration can of course happen in social media venues like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and it can happen internally through those avenues, or in the productivity tools, if the organization supports it. They must allow their employees to utilize and access those networks and they must also invest in someone to manage and promote those company social media outlets and accounts because that is also where your customers will go first to research you. It’s all about support, understanding, and funding at the top of the organization for that type of involvement and effort.
Summary / call for input
Collaboration may be a frequently used catchy term in the project management world today. But in reality it is far more than that. The organization that does not give the project manager and team the proper tools and support to work collaboratively may be forcing the project manager into a do-everything, manage-everything situation or may be frustrating project teams by making it hard to work cohesively in an environment that doesn’t really support it.
Are you a collaborative organization and a collaborative project manager? What tools and polices do you have in place to make this a reality?
Brad Egeland is a consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. He is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s project management blog.
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