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Can Collaboration Hurt Your Project?

Many organizations strive to improve their team communication and  collaboration as if it were the biggest key to their success – and for most, it probably is. That′s the whole point of project management methodologies like Agile  and  Scrum, after all. But there are some instances where you  can  get too much of a good thing, and collaboration can become a hindrance.

The Customer Has Too Much Say

Projects do need customer feedback, but too much is poison. Either the project will never get done, or there will be so much feature creep and revisions that you wind up losing money on the deal.

Set limits. When I worked at the agency, we would impose a strict number of revisions on a piece of creativity. Any additional revisions would be charged on a per hour basis. That curbed many frivolous changes and protected our team′s time. That way we were able to provide higher quality work to more clients.

Executive Meddling

Management support  is key to getting a project out the door. But whether coming from within your organization or outside of it (the client′s), a single wrong word from a senior manager can be a wrecking ball to your project′s carefully laid plans. Eager but uninformed executives can easily shift a project in entirely the wrong direction.

Ideally, you should restrict management involvement to a single, supportive senior stakeholder. This senior stakeholder will be in charge of communicating with the rest of the management team and fielding their questions. Executives will now have a point of contact who understands both the management situation and the project itself, and the team will have a senior manager with both the authority to make changes, and the knowledge to ensure they′re the right ones.

Projects are Managed By Committee

As I mentioned earlier, peer-centric setups like Scrum teams excel at collaborating. But not all organizations have a range of experience or structure to take advantage of such an arrangement. In fact, doing things an Agile way might end up just miring the project as teams try to accommodate opinions. Politics would then enter the equation, and we all know  how that will turn out.

Project managers can and should take feedback from teams, but we should also know which ideas to listen to and which to discard. Everybody is pitching in, but that doesn′t always mean that everybody should get to decide. Even democracies have a single leader figure.

Like any other tool in your project management toolkit, collaboration is best done in moderation, and in the right situations. Project managers need to know when to draw the line and make a decision – even if it′s an unpopular one.

What about you? Have you ever had collaboration hurt your project?  


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