I always say that communication is Job #1 for the project manager. Without accurate and efficient (and frequent!) project communication to the team, customer and management, project success will be extremely difficult to realize.
It is critical that project managers continually communicate issues, task assignments, expectations, status updates, and other nearly continuous streams of necessary information to their project staff members and their customers on every project they manage. And the communication stream really needs to be two-way – with team members feeding status information and issues back to the project manager and the customer communicating information, requirements, changes, and concerns to the project manager and team.
What is collaboration?
At the heart of this necessary communication is the concept of collaboration. Wikipedia defines collaboration as… “working together to achieve a goal. It is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together to realize shared goals, (this is more than the intersection of common goals seen in co-operative ventures, but a deep, collective, determination to reach an identical objective) — for example, an intriguing endeavor that is creative in nature - by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus.” Indeed…sounds like everything that needs to be done by a project team working together cohesively to reach the common goal of delivering a useful end solution to a customer on a project engagement.
How and when do we collaborate?
We know what collaboration is…now let’s look at how we as project management professionals successfully (hopefully) collaborate on our projects.
Sharing up-to-date project status. Project managers use collaborative tools like project management software to develop, revise, report on and distribute project schedules with task assignments and work efforts to project team members. Likewise, those team members collaborate with the rest of their team and the project manager by updating their own progress on tasks using the same project management software tool. We also collaborate on project status information through project status reporting, project status meetings, emails and conference calls.
Sharing project information. Project professionals collaborate not only with their current team members but also with fellow project professionals on other projects within the same company through the sharing of documents and project information in knowledge databases. No one wants to reinvent the wheel or fail to learn lessons from other projects thus repeating failures that could have been avoided. Databases of knowledge from project lessons learned sessions, electronic storage of reusable templates and planning document samples, and project schedule shells from project management software tools are all examples of sharing knowledge and collaborating across projects within an organization.
Sharing in peer and networking project groups. Finally, sharing information peer to peer is a critical way to increase skills and project successes. PMOs containing project managers within the same organization usually collaborate weekly to share project status information, help solve each others’ issues, discuss company information that is relevant to current projects, and identify training needs, etc. Many organizations I’ve been associated with also have similar groups for their development staffs who are working on projects and their business analysts as well. Networking groups such as Project Management Institute (PMI) chapters are also good examples of groups collaborating to reach common success goals.
Summary / call for input
Collaboration is always a key to success. Whether that’s through a collaborative project management platform, a social media group or other project team collaboration software, you’ll find that the ability to communicate effectively as a team – in real-time when meetings can’t happen or just on an ongoing basis – helps build cohesive teams and lead to successful project engagements.
How about our readers? What tips for collaboration do you have? What other suggestions in the area of team collaboration can you add?