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How to work from contentious to collaborative

You need
Clear written goals
Defined roles and responsibilities
Great access and communication

1. Look for openings where you can encourage collaboration. Mine came when I was assigned to do some project management work. What is project management? “Project management activity is leading the team in figuring out what the project is, shepherding the project through design and development work and driving the project through to completion.” –Scott Berkun, “The Art of Project Management”

2. Know your baseline perceptions and get buy-in. What did people think of project management, what could it do, what was their experience? I needed to know their perceptions rather than create a solo vision. I conducted informal interviews and focus groups. When people understand they are helping shape goals and mapping a work plan, you’re on your way to getting buy-in. I had my supervisor’s endorsement because I kept talking to her.

3. Create an action plan based on needs and perceptions; seek advice. My assessment of the staff opinions was we had to move cautiously into collaboration and project management (PM). The comments ranged from PM would solve all problems to it was an exercise in futility. I needed a framework that I had not devised (I didn’t want to own the process), was inexpensive and ready to use, was intuitive (didn’t require extensive training) and was accessible anywhere anytime. I asked IT staff for suggestions. We are using the mid-grade version of Basecamp to test how it will work for us. It’s labeled PM software but more than that, it’s collaboration software.

4. Give open access to the work. Everyone in the ISU Extension communications unit has permission to view, add to, modify and comment on the big extension-wide projects...from inception. Clients can have the same access.

5. The goals are listed on the homepage of the project. How can collaboration succeed if you don’t have direction and vision? Goals are a constant reminder of what we’re trying to accomplish. The goals sometimes come from a group discussion, sometimes they’re handed to me and sometimes I ask others to help define them.

6. Define roles and responsibilities. What work needs to get done, who will do it, what is the makeup of the team responsible? What is each person’s role? It’s efficient and civil to take the time for the project group to define roles and responsibilities which then saves production time. It’s contentious and inefficient to have several people inadvertently doing the same work or unclear about their role and responsibilities.

7. Hold one another accountable to get the work done. When there is trust in the group and transparent information, team members will hold one another accountable to get work done on time.

Continued from Jan. 15, From contentious to collaborative


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I think that the collaboration tools used (mentioned in point #3) are excellent for Project Management. They're much better than using MS Project (or Excel), or even developing/installing/maintaining your own in-house intranet. The overhead of the latter is totally eliminated, the only disadvantage of such tools IMO is that some of your sensitive data is hosted in a 3rd party company, but again, this is the direction. I have published an article on the subject, advantages of online Project Management software.

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