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Collaborative Projects: Who Needs Them?
Some project managers dread collaborative projects. Why? They’d rather be in charge of a team or two, assign the work, monitor the project, and get it done already. In today’s world of virtual offices and networking, collaborative project management is here to stay and, as a manager, you need to know what to do if this type of project falls in your lap.
Before you think you’ll fail at collaborative efforts, singer/songwriter Jon Bon Jovi once said, “Success is falling down nine times and getting up ten." Outside of creating the perfect Project Management Office (PMO), what are the most important elements of team collaboration?
You could hire a collaborative project management firm and spends tons of money for tips and advice on things you could have done yourself. You could just act like you are collaborating so you appear to be fitting in yet all the time being your own team. Instead of thinking of ways it won’t work, why not embrace it? Even if you’ve failed at collaborating before, why not make this your “tenth" time getting up?
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Team Collaboration Elements
- Deal With Negativity – You will have some whiners and those who say, “I work better alone," so accept that up front. Explain how much faster projects will get done and how successful projects mean steady work where everyone’s happy.
- Create One Project Plan – You don’t need a plan for IT, a plan for human resources, and a task plan. What you do need is one project plan that includes all the elements of the project from start to finish--and make sure everyone has a copy.
- You Have to Meet – Most people hate meetings, but if you are going to collaborate, you need to meet. Set up your meeting plan guidelines in your project plan and expect team leaders and members to adhere to set meeting times.
- Communication – Time Magazine recently reported actor Ashton Kutcher thinks Twittering is the best way to keep everyone on the same page. Maybe, if it’s about a new film coming out and you’re the star, but in collaborate project management, you need to find a way where everyone can communicate simultaneously, see suggestions, team progress—sort of a place where everyone can tune in and find out what’s going on. Most project management software has this capability so use it. Give everyone on the team uniform access.
- Individual Input – If you don’t offer and allow individuals working on the collaborative project the time to give input, you’re directing, not collaborating.
- Have a Mission – No matter what project management methodology you choose, have a mission with goals everyone understands and wants to achieve and be proud of. At my Ford dealership, our Mission Statement is, “To ensure every customer who enters our dealership has a fast, accurate, and acceptable buying experience that meets every automotive need they have before they leave the store." That means everyone must be involved and be able to back each other up in order to meet that mission—this is essential in collaborative project management.
- Use Facilitators – Even the best project manager who has been through the elements of team collaboration can be helped through the use of good facilitators. Choose your facilitators based on not just knowledge, but likability and their ability to listen and follow through.
- Reward and Recognize – With collaborative project management, you can’t just say "nice job" to one team—after all, everyone worked on the project. So, reward and recognize everyone.
- If Change is Needed – If changes arise, don’t panic, you’ve got a great communication plan in place, so utilize it.
- Keep Track of Good Ideas - If something worked well in your collaborative project, make a note of it and utilize that element in future projects.
Every project is different, but if your job is to work collaboratively with others, you need to do so in a manner that is uniform, concise, and with a plan everyone can see, touch, and feel, and also offer input.
Through the use of some of these elements of team collaboration, you most likely won’t fail, but even if you have some bumps along the way, you’ll have the tools needed to correct elements as needed.