Collaborating for success!

The importance of collaboration and positive relationships in the delivery of projects cannot be underestimated.

Most project managers can competently dip into a range of tools such as plans, RAID logs and change requests to manage delivery… but it can be easy to forget that there is a much more powerful and important tool available – people.

If you notice a breakdown in interpersonal relationships, someone is unhappy or you are in a situation where ‘you can cut the atmosphere’ – the worst thing you can do is bury your head in processes.

Establishing trust and respect between a team united by a common purpose should be the ultimate aim of every good project manager or delivery lead. That is my belief and it is at the core of every approach I take to solutions delivery.

How can this be achieved?

  1. Be brave and call the issue out
    If there is a big problem, no matter how complex, deep or concerning, be the person who is big enough to open a conversation about it. It is all too easy to talk, offload or ‘log’ the issue away. It takes guts to take it head on and be prepared to own it, or at least light the torch and start the relay race. It might get ‘managed’ to completion in a few months time, but if you have the opportunity to close it now, take it.
  2. Call a meeting with all relevant parties to discuss the issue.
    Run that meeting yourself, and encourage people to listen and respect each other. This can be tough, especially if you are dealing with those who believe that their role puts them above others opinions. In this instance, I advise leading by example. Be sensitive of others, empathic of their situation and remember that it we are all different and that is OK.
  3. Build a plan to get out of the rut – together…
    Start to build it yourself, show the others that you care and that a solution is nearing. Encourage them to contribute, this will automatically get their buy in – and, if you don’t know the answer yourself, let others fill in the gaps for you. It is braver to admit that you don’t know something than it is to bluff your way through it, and although they might not be the kind of people to tell you, people will respect you more for it.
  4. Execute the plan together.
    Similar to the above, work together on delivering the plan that you created together. If someone doesn’t pull their weight, don’t be afraid to call them out on it in the presence of the other’s who committed. It’s not about micro-management of tasks, it’s about re-affirming the attitude of those who trusted your approach (and likely took a leap of faith in trusting you).
  5. Retrospect the plan together, and make improvements.
    Continuously improve! A key tenant of agile! Talk about how it went, and what you can do next time to improve it.

Sounds simple. Word of warning – this does not always work, it assumes a few things:

  1. That the majority of people you are working with want to improve the current situation (often, most people do, but some feel threatened, unmotivated or afraid of change).
  2. That you have the bandwidth to co-ordinate all the above activity. If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly, try to give yourself the space you need to do this properly.

I know that this is a short collection of thoughts, and situations are often more complex, but following this approach has really helped me over time, and has often resulted in very strong relationships that have been there for me when i really needed them later down the line.

Give it a try..! Good luck!

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