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Are You Really Collaborating? Too Much Communication Also Kills Projects


The value of collaboration within a project

Project management is very task-oriented: focused defining and managing of all the tasks that must be done to achieve a specific objective. To accomplish these tasks, it is important to consider the people involved and impacted by the project. A good project leader will be able to develop a positive working relationship and maximize communication within the project.

Let’s take the development of an enterprise IT application to support a specific program. On the business side, it will have numerous stakeholders. For the success of the project, it is essential that the development team collaborate with these persons. Otherwise, it will be difficult to develop an application that adds value, and allows the client to maximize the benefits of its use after the release.

If collaboration is well managed, it will enhance the value and success of the project significantly. However, lack of proper collaboration can also be the cause of project failure. Unfortunately, I must admit that I have seen my share of projects failing for that reason. While a simple project does not require much communication, it doesn’t take much to bring enough complexity into the project to make it a critical success factor.

What is collaboration really?

Talking about collaboration is nice, but what is it? Collaboration is working with people in order to achieve or do something. It should not be confused with excessive consultation; collaboration is not about talking to everybody about everything all the times. Rather, it is about talking to somebody at a specific moment on a specific subject, or we could say that communication should be about:

  • working with the correct person,
  • on a relevant subject,
  • in a timely manner.

The power of collaboration in theory

Any complex projects will inevitably involve numerous stakeholders, so the temptation is to maximize consultation and collaboration. In itself, it is a great idea. It is much better leadership to increase collaboration and teamwork, and to take a participative approach rather than impose ideas and solutions on others. Our goal here is not to dismiss the benefits of collaboration and consultations with clients. Our goal is to make sure it is well done.

Potential failures

So what could go wrong with consultation? Well, it is very possible to consult the wrong group on a subject. Excessive collaboration can also lead to various other problems. It can lead to confusion of the definition of the requirements, untimely decisions, decisions by the wrong persons or groups, or just no decisions.

It can reduce the acceptance of the application because it would have convinced all users that they can decide on everything. Maybe it would be nice in a dream world. The reality is different. It can also mean that the participation rate is low, task priority is low, simply because discussions are not focused and relevant to the audience.

The development of a corporate application is always an art of compromise. If not, it becomes one of those projects infinitely “in progress.” Ultimately, it can be a failed IT project.

Optimizing collaboration

You need to understand the various roles and groups first. Who is impacted by the application, and in what manner? What component of the application will they be using? Executives, employees, and managers will have different needs.

Do you want to know a good red flag that the roles, users, and groups have not been well-defined? It is difficult or even impossible to identify the persons who should approve the requirements or sign the acceptance of the product.

Various parts of the project, or the IT application in our example, would impact different users. Some will likely require approval by different persons. During the project, collaborating will be important. However, you need to understand fully roles, users, and groups first. Then, and only then, you will be able to design a strategy that optimizes communication and consultation for the success of the project.


For more brilliant insights, check out Michel’s website: Project-Aria

Additionally, check out his book, Leadership Toolbox for Project Managers: Achieve better results in a dynamic world:

About Michel Dion

Michel Dion is a CPA and PMP, living in Ottawa, Canada with his wife and 2 kids. He also has a certification in Internal Audit (CIA), Risk Management (CRMA) and Fraud (CFE). Michel has managed in his career many projects, including special initiatives and emergency projects. He is developing a website called Project-Aria, and is very active in the project management community on the web. The key areas of focus of Project-Aria are project management, leadership, productivity, mind and health, and career and training. He has loved technology since the moment he played on the TRS80 a while ago. Despite that, his two sons insist that they know more about technology than him. Sometimes, he will comment on other subjects, as he likes fitness, travel, chess, photography, and music. He also has a goal of mastering four languages: English, French, Spanish and Swedish. Pay Michel a visit at Project-Aria by clicking the button below.

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