3 Myths About Collaborative Project Management

What Do You Believe?

People working together
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We hear a lot of noise about collaborative project management, especially since Millennials are becoming an increasingly important segment of the workforce.

Collaborative project management is where the command and control method of management is dismissed and the team works together to solve project problems. The team gets involved in every step of the project process from planning to control and communication.

Managing the project isn't the sole responsibility of the project manager. Instead, everyone takes responsibility for helping the entire team meet its goals as the project moves forward to deliver its objectives.

In short, collaborative project management is teamwork on projects for everyone's benefit.

From time to time there is pushback against collaborative project management, so let's review the most common myths about the subject.

Myth 1: Collaborative Project Management Takes Power From the Project Manager

There is some truth to this statement, but in our opinion, the democratization of project management is actually beneficial to the individual’s work contribution, the overall team output and ultimately the organization. By empowering project team members with more stake in the project, the argument is that the project manager can lose control of the project direction. Instead of the team answering to the project manager, the project manager answers to the team.

From our perspective, the democratization of project management is both positive and also permanent. Enabling the individuals to work together with less micromanagement can yield positive results if the project manager monitors progress and is aware of emerging project issues before they lead to an escalation.

Collaboration should be about taking the power away from the project manager – it is about making everyone on a team more accountable to the overall project goals.

Myth 2: Collaboration Only Happens in Homogeneous Work Environments

The logic behind the statement about heterogeneous work environments is that only people with a similar background can reach a common understanding. People with the same or similar backgrounds or culture can communicate more easily and this leads to project management collaboration.

Research from Harvard Business Review indicates that there is some truth to the assertion about team members are more likely to collaborate if they see themselves as alike. 

However, to suggest that collaboration cannot thrive in a heterogeneous environment is defeatist and ignores the reality of a distributed workforce where projects teams are located around the globe.

Yes, cultural and ethnic differences can be a challenge but collaborative project management is supported by a management committed to collaboration, a proactive approach to educating and mentoring team members and providing incentives – both financial and career advancement – for the adoption of collaborative practices.

It can work in Agile project environments and more traditional set ups.

Myth 3: Collaboration Works in Creative Processes but Not With Serious Disciplines Such as Engineering

First, the creative industries are a serious discipline. Different, but still serious.

The argument behind this myth goes that the sweater wearing/pocket protector engineer lacks the social and communication skills to collaborate with team members whereas the young and hip web designer.

Stereotypes exist for reason, and there is often some truth to them. Although it is true that engineers sometimes feel that the problems that they need to address are so complex that they need to be worked on alone, it is equally true that some of the creative types have egos that prevent collaboration and team work.

As a practitioner of collaborative project management before the term existed, I find that the predictors of collaboration traits are not tied to roles and titles.

A good project manager understands the strengths and weaknesses of their team members and will always be faced with a range of aptitudes and skill sets – whether they relate to collaboration, technical understanding or self-motivation.

Collaboration does not come naturally to everyone on the team and is, therefore, the role of both the organization to encourage collaborative practices and the project manager to mentor, train and lead by example.

David Robins is the CEO of Binfire.