Businesses and organizations exist to achieve an objective. When interpersonal conflicts arise, the objective can become secondary. This is where we can look to the additional benefits of everyday tools to increase collaboration.
In one company faced with a major nationwide project, the organization tasked with design and delivery was at odds with the internal business customer it served. What the business customer considered oversight was considered micromanagement by the organization.
Conversations usually resulted in a breakdown about how to proceed. Until, that is, the day we consultants encouraged our client (the organization responsible for design and delivery) to bring a project management plan (printed on multiple pages each 3 feet tall by approximately 6 feet wide) to the next meeting with the business customer. It was a magical moment. For the first time, conversations began to re-orient focusing on the objective and how to accomplish the task together.
So, what happened, and how might you similarly encourage greater collaboration across functions and within a team? A project plan (or any project tool that has a discrete beginning and end, and shows interdependencies) offers benefits beyond mere scheduling, resourcing, etc.
A project plan can:
Restore and Keep the Focus on the Business Objective. The plan or artifact–whether project schedule, Gantt chart, or milestone chart–helps us disengage from a polarized stance. We literally and figuratively turn toward our common objective represented in the chart or schedule before us.
Encourage Systems Thinking by Seeing Interdependencies and Complexity. When we can actually see the linkages, the level of complexity and understand how decisions made (or not made) impact the whole, we are able to engage in systems thinking and a new perspective. “Them” and “Us” no longer exist in isolation. The project becomes shared and concurrently, in a positive way, task owners’ accountability for performance increases.
Completion of Tasks Provides a Sense of Accomplishment. Schedules or charts that represent a beginning-to-end process can be particularly helpful where the end product is an intangible or where those working on the project do not engage with the physical product. Seeing tasks completed provides a sense of satisfaction and progress. The completion of a major task signals an opportunity by the lead to affirm all contributors’ performance.
While the business customer and my client were never in perfect accord, something changed for the better as the project management plan became a regular, dynamic resource present in meetings and referred to by both. One that helped better align both toward the end goal. Ever since then, I have considered project management schedules and other similar tools a way to increase collaboration and enhance team participation, the ultimate benefit being the achievement of a business objective.
U.S. Library of Congress ISSN 2164-7240
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