Collaborative Project Management – A guide

A guide to collaborative project management

For many of us who have been around for a while, changing culture is like boiling the ocean.  In other words, it cannot be done easily.  In my experience,  if a change is incremental and beneficial in the short-term, then it will be accepted by the team.  Here are some ways that I have used to create a culture that supports Collaborative Project Management.

Manage by Example

Collaboration cannot occur in a vacuum and the management needs to create a top-down culture that adopts collaborative practices. Collaboration should be backed in from project planning to execution and delivery.

Within the project team, the Project Manager needs to demonstrate a commitment to collaboration by leading by example.

A Collaborative Project Manager has an open door policy. She is empathetic to the views of her team members.

In addition, their managers are transparent in their decision-making process so that team members understand the rationale for the change. They are also inclusive of the diverse views of team members.

Of course, Project Managers need to respond to the overall business objectives and the consensus is not always feasible or necessary.

However, when the Project Manager as individual acts as a role model for collaboration this can change the overall team dynamic.

Promote and Incentivize Collaboration

Team members that demonstrate collaborative Project Management practices should be reward by receiving recognition or where applicable career advancement opportunities or even financial incentives.

Demonstrate to the wider team that professional development within the organization is linked to the individual’s ability to collaborate with a group.  One way to incentivize collaboration is to tie compensation and reward for the overall team results.

Individuals who are unwilling or unable to collaborate could be penalized and when necessary removed from a team or even the organization.

Educate and Mentor Your Team

One cannot simply assume that a team will be collaborative even if the overall organization is supportive of collaboration and the Project Manager works to facilitate this behavior.

By definition, Collaboration cannot be taught via a frontal learning methodology.  Companies with a rigid approach to corporate training may need to re-think how to educate their project teams on collaborative practices.

In our experience, one of the best ways to teach collaboration is to conduct off-site activities with a team prior to kick-off.

Within reasonable limits, group activities can be designed to foster team building and also introduce team members to each other in a non-threatening, more intimate way.

After project completion, it is always important to conduct a thorough debrief and to use the experience for professional development and growth.

For the overall success of a project, we cannot overemphasize the importance of the project manager taking on a mentorship role with the specific intent of encouraging collaboration.

Finally, to the extent that corporate training programs can incorporate collaboration building exercises, we recommend programs that focus on Emotional Intelligence, team m-building, cross-cultural sensitivity and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Develop Metrics for Collaboration

Where possible tie metrics to the overall performance of the team and not the individual.  Without being too prescriptive, we suggest the following:

  • Include the overall team members in developing and selecting metrics for success. By securing the participating of team members in determining the metrics for success, this creates a shared vision for individual contributors.
  • Metrics need to be specific and tied to the business results. If the project relates to the launch of a new product, then the metrics need to reflect specific achievements such as the time to market or bug tracking/fixes recorded.

Develop Transparent Communications

Communication between the Project Manager and team members need to be honest and based on feedback.

The ultimate goal of the Project Manager is that the team member can come to him or her with questions, concerns and (especially) mistakes.

The Project Manager needs to listen to feedback but is not always compelled to take the counsel of each individual working on a project.

The ability to give push-back, ask probing questions and provide a safe environment form part of an open two-way dialog between the Project Manager and the team.

The same should be encouraged among the team members: honest and robust communication helps teams to achieve more and make deadlines at much higher rates.

Information needs to be available to all relevant stakeholders and as close to real-time as possible.

In the age of social media, people expect quick responses to questions and requests for data.

Within the Collaborative Project Management arena, this requires the Project Manager and his/ her team to provide real-time feedback and to share this feedback with the overall group.

Therefore, good collaborative project management software provides functionality that updates all data in real time to all team members associated with a task.

For instance, if there is a specific bug identified or a task is delayed, the team should receive this information automatically and in real-time.

The modern workforce is becoming more and more collaborative. Millennials prefer to work in an environment which is collaborative and inclusive. For these reasons, the project manager’s job is getting easier to implement collaborative project management practices.

David Robins


David Robins is the founder and CEO of Binfire. David studied at both Cornell and MIT, and was the Director of Software Engineering at Polaroid for 11 years.

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