Tuesday, 21 February 2017 07:40

5 Steps to Improved Project Team Collaboration

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Team collaboration and communication is critical to project success.

The project manager organizes the project and provides scheduling, budgeting, resource planning and usage, communication and customer engagement oversight throughout the project. However, the business analyst is often the one in the trenches with the project team on a daily basis – often interacting on the individual tasks the team is performing both with the team and with the project customer. You can see how team collaboration would quickly be at the forefront of project success especially on today's projects that often being carried out by virtual teams that may never come face to face with each other.

Let's consider five possible steps to be taken to improve the project team collaboration on a day to day basis:

1. Know the Team

In this age of virtual teams, individuals may go through entire projects without ever meeting their team members - or even the client - face to face. I have carried out projects lasting 12 months or longer without meeting any of my team in person or even the customer. The key is communication. To create a close knit team, you must connect with them on a personal level as well. I always suggest at least a weekly team call. Unless something urgent must be discussed immediately, initiate the call with some lighter conversation. Start going around the group and talking about what activities they have going on outside of work over the weekend or next week. It is an excellent way to build some cohesion beyond just the task commitments. Everyone hates having their picture taken, but having a photo on your email signature line or profile in the system gives a face to the person on the other end of the phone call. We humans can feel empathy and comradery when seeing a person's face because it is how our brains our wired. When we see a person's picture, we feel closer to them personally.

2. Get Input from Everyone

Always include the entire team on important meetings, decisions, and communications. If you get in the habit of going only to a tech lead or data specialist for example on a given project before you know it that is all you will have left. The portion of the team that is always being left out will start to shift their focus to the projects where they feel they are making bigger contributions. You do not want that! Include everyone, even if you still have a go-to guy on the team for most of what you need. The team that keeps excellent communication where everyone is providing input is the more productive and accountable team. That is what you want for your team.

3. Allow Everyone to Face the Customer

Make sure everyone is interacting with the project client. It increases the feeling of contribution and accountability for the project team members. With that increased feeling of contribution and responsibility you will also likely see an increase in participation, cooperation, and performance. People want to be wanted. I want you to want me, remember? What is the easiest and best way to do this? Some of the team will frequently be interacting with the customer already – especially on a technical project where early on some requirements and business processes may need vetting. However, another great way – a way I have always used – is to allow (or force) each project team member to report on the progress of their key project tasks during the regular weekly status calls with the customer. This increases accountability and ownership of tasks and increases collaboration as they work to ensure that they have made as much progress as possible and that everyone on the team is up to date on their task statuses before these calls.

4. Use a Collaboration Tool

Believe it or not, on individual projects the tool can make a big difference. Moreover, if it is a collaboration you are in need of, then that has to be a significant project management consideration. Alternatively, you can set up a "home grown" collaboration method. However, there are enough project management related tools out there to research and try out where you can fully collaborate through the given tool of choice and not have to resort to a closed Facebook group. Can you tell that I have done that on a project or two? There are better choices out there to review. It takes time, but contact vendors, demo alternatives and find the one that works for your teams and organization and maybe your customers depending on whether or not you want them involved in the collaboration process. At a minimum, you want to be able to communicate and share documents and revisions through the collaborative tool. Proceed carefully. Complex collaboration tools that are difficult to interact with may break down communication for the team.

5. Clear Team Member Availability

Finally, to ensure you have full team member participation, collaboration and cooperation on high priority complex projects, make sure your team members are indeed available for the project. I've had several projects start well only to find that a given team member was stretched too thin or involved in another, possibly higher priority project. When issues arise on one of those other critical projects you may lose that essential resource either temporarily or even permanently. That can be painful and onboarding new resources is not without extra costs and sometimes lost in the process – not to mention causing almost immediate concern for the client that their project may not be very important to your organization if they are losing resources to other projects and other clients.

Summary

A tight team is a dedicated, ready to follow you into a battle. Excellent communication and collaboration is the key to most of the project success you are going to experience on any given engagement. Without good communication, requirements will get missed or miscommunicated, deadlines will come and go without successful delivery, and re-work will undoubtedly happen. All of these will serve to inch your project closer to overall customer dissatisfaction and project failure. You do not want that, so get started on the right foot from the outset. These are five of my proven steps to build the best team collaboration and avoid the pending glitches. I probably have more...

Readers: What are your steps? What do you do to build a close knit team and ensure the best and most efficient collaboration and communication possible? What problems have you encountered? What successes have you experienced? Please share and discuss.

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Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 10, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

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