Business collaboration can be massively rewarding. Bringing together different skills sets, experiences and perspectives can lead to outcomes one person on their own could possibly never achieve.
There are however many things to consider before entering into a collaborative project, which is why I am exploring this topic in these three articles. In part one, I looked at the points to consider before starting a collaborative project. In this part two, I want to consider a few things to think about during the project, and finally, in part three, I will look at the post-project points to bear in mind.
Once the collaboration partners have all their ducks in a row, as discussed in part one, it is time to start the project. The project lead will need to do what it says on the tin: lead. But that is not a synonym for “doing all the work”. It is the project lead’s responsibility to oversee the project and delegate tasks – make sure everything runs smoothly. Here are a few points the project lead andother partners may want to think about:
- The group will need to schedule regular progress / update meetings.These meetings can be in person or via video conferencing – whatever works best for the group. Gain agreement on how often these meetings need to occur and schedule the first few dates into everyone’s diary. This helps create momentum for the project.
- A meeting summary needs to be circulated to all project partners as soon as possible after the meeting has ended. The project lead can take on this task or delegate it to another project partner. These summaries (or meeting minutes) are vital; it ensures that everyone is on the same page and that there can be no miscommunication or misunderstandings.
- Every action point needs to be assigned to a project partner. If we leave action points “floating”, without someone taking responsibility, chances are high that it won’t get done. Discuss next steps and next actions during the regular meetings, and decide who will take that action. This should also be made clear in the meeting summary.
- It is the responsibility of each project partner to schedule “their” tasks into their own diary / planner. It is the responsibility of the project lead to follow up with each partner to ensure tasks are completed on schedule.
- The point of using project management software, is to ensure all parties are up to date with the progress of the project. So, it really is quite important that each project partner keeps the software updated with his or her own progress. This also helps to project lead to know if everything is on track.
What if things go off track?
The more partners involved and the more complex the project, the higher the chances of something dropping behind schedule. This is just an unfortunate fact and we need to have strategies in place, to deal with it when it happens. A few points that may help:
- A good project lead will notice very quickly when a task or part of the project falls behind schedule. Through checking updates in the project management system and communications with project partners, the project lead should always know exactly where the project is at any given time.
- Sometimes we need to have difficult conversations. It is pointless (and will in fact make matters worse) if the project lead does not arrest the situation immediately if one or more partners are falling behind schedule. It is vital that the project lead talks to the partner/s involved to determine what exactly the problem is. The project lead can then (and should) take action to solve the situation and get the project back on track. This could involve re-assigning a task, providing assistance to the partner in question or renegotiating deadlines.
- Each project partner should have the courage and confidence to speak up when they notice something going wrong. Project leads are human too! It is not always possible for a project lead to be aware of every small thing involved in a large project. It is the responsibility of every project partner to help steer the project to successful completion.
- Remember your exit plan. If all else fails and one or more project partners are not delivering what they have committed to deliver, the group can have an honest discussion and refer back to their agreed exit plan and signed “collaboration agreement”. Don’t let things drag on; take action as soon as a problem arises.
Other useful points
There are many things a collaboration group can do to get the most out of such a project. Over-and-above the project outcomes, group members may be able to leverage their involvement even further. Every collaborative project will be different, but here are a few points to consider for your next collaborative project:
- Would it be a good idea to list the project on your LinkedIn profile? A project lead could add the project on LinkedIn and join all project partners into the project. It is a good way to showcase what you are working on.
- Can the group use social media to create awareness of the project? If the project can be made public, it might be great to share progress with the combined audiences of all partners. This can help create momentum and a bit of a “buzz”.
- Are there other PR opportunities? If the project has wider interest, it may be a good idea to arrange press coverage for the project. This will create exposure for the project itself as well as all project partners.
Whatever your collaborative project involves, its success depends on smooth running, excellent project management skills and clear communication between all parties.
But a project does not end when it is completed. There is more to do – much more! In fact, how a project is finalised and the actions taken by all project partners directly after project completion, is as important as the actions taken during the project lifetime. I’ll discuss the “post-project” part of a successful collaboration, in part three of this series. In the mean time, I would appreciate your ideas on making a collaborative project a success.
Tiana Wilson-Buys is a Business Coach and Productivity Strategist. She offers a free 30-minute virtual meeting to help you get organised. Book your slot here.