by Lou Russell

July 01, 2021

OPPOSITES ATTRACT: Project Management and Collaboration

When I think about project management and collaboration, at first I think of them as opposites. Project Management is all about structure, accuracy, specifics, and completion. Collaboration is all about people, teams, differences, ideas, and innovation. Like most opposites, the combination of both can bring new surprises. 


Using the Fourth of July to work this out, Project Management is needed to create a safe and perfect firework. Collaboration is needed to create the “OOOOH” we can’t help saying when the firework explodes in random, brilliant colors. 


I’m a big fan of the Project Scope Diagram. This template helps me evaluate the scope and complexities of a project before I start it. Let to my own devices, I’m prone to jumping right into new projects without really figuring out whether or not I should. I love new ideas, in fact, I love them much more than the unfinished work that is on my desk right now. Luckily, the Project Scope Diagram gives me the scaffolding to step back and judge whether this is a good project for the company or not. Using the Project Scope Diagram to collaborate makes it all the more powerful. 




The first decision is to figure out what the goal is for the business. It turns out there are only two important choices – you launch projects when you want to make more money by improving your services or avoid costs. You will have to COLLABORATE with others to choose whether this project is about making money or driving costs from your business. This seems so simple but it takes a bit of thought. For example, 


If my project is about selling a new product effectively, I would be aligned to making money. If my project was about trying to launch a new start-up with limited funds, I would be aligned to avoiding costs as best as I could. 





The next step is to define what you are going to get at the end of your project that you don’t have now. COLLABORATING with others will help you think clearly about the 3 – 5 goals you have for this project to complete. In Project Management, these are often called Project Objectives Here are a few examples: 


  • Deliver a workshop on Project Management
  • Create a schedule for the students attending a workshop
  • Design, deliver and build course evaluations for a workshop 


It’s critical to remember that objectives are goals that are measurable and achievable. If they are not both, they are just dreams, not project goals. 




Now comes the time for making sure that this project can be completed. How often have you jumped into a project then realized that it was way over your head, or the people you were working with were not qualified to help? Adding COLLABORATION to the project will make sure that the risks and constraints of this project are truthful. 


This includes RISKS and CONSTRAINTS: 


The first test is to take a quick look at how risky the project is. There are three criteria: How big is the project? How clear are the requirements of the project? How new is the technology or processes used on the project? 


Here’s an example: 


Returning to the previous Project Objective to create a Project Management Workshop... 


We clarify the Risk by identifying and averaging the size, requirements, and technology/processes. For my Project Management Workshop project, I might evaluate things this way: 


SIZE (1- 10) This project is pretty big because I’ve not done it before. I’d call this an 8/10. 


STRUCTURE / REQUIREMENTS (1-10) How clear are the requirements? If the goals seem a little unclear and fuzzy, I’d call this a 3/10. 


TECHNOLOGY/PROCESS (1-10) Are there new apps or technologies that have to be learned for this project? I’d call this a 5/10. 
The average of these three is 5. That means that you (as the project manager) have judged this project to be average complexity (5/10). In that case, you’d likely choose to continue. But before you move on, COLLABORATION with others makes your ‘bet’ more likely. 




Projects always have some kind of constraints. This includes things like not enough time, money, or quality. Here are a few examples: 


  • The project has to be done in 1 day and you were expecting a month
  • The project has to be done on the cheap
  • The project has to be built with impeccable perfection


Once you know the boundaries for these constraints, you can work around them. On the other hand, if you ignore the constraints, your project will either go forever or be shot down quickly. 


Returning to the Risks, look at the risks one more time by thinking about COLLABORATION. This is the final truth detection. Asks others to help you think about what could go wrong. Focus on the risks that will have the most impact and then figure out how to do two important things: 


  • What will you do to PREVENT these risks? How will you keep them on your radar as the project progresses? Who can collaborate to help?
  • How will you REACT to surprise disasters? How will you keep them moving? Who can collaborate to help?


Project Management combined with Collaboration is stronger than either of the two alone. Take the time to build collaboration with your project management peers to increase the value of your project delivery. 




Finally, download a Project Charter template here. 



Lou Russell

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