Project Practitioners > Collaboration Is A Team Sport, Isn’t It?

Collaboration Is A Team Sport, Isn’t It?

By Kent McDonald

I am in a quandary.  I’m a huge believer in working with the project team to define our project plan and schedule, the processes we will use on a project, who is doing what work, how long the work will take, and the methodology we will follow.  After all, they are the folks who are actually going to be doing the work, who else is better to identify what should be done?  But what do you do when you don’t have your team yet?

I am currently in an organization that has an initiation phase at the beginning of their projects that includes identifying some high level business requirements and estimates.  The problem is, the people involved in putting this information together are rarely the ones that will actually do the work. Fortunately we typically revise the estimate following an in-depth analysis, which does include the people who will be doing the actual work, but expectations have already been set.  But this blog post isn’t really about estimating.

My current quandary is how to balance properly preparing for the project with providing the people working on it the ability to impact the processes used.  All of those items I mentioned above: plan, schedule, processes, work assignments, durations, and methodology have a direct impact on the estimate.  By all rights, those things should at least be sketched out to understand how they impact how long the project will take, but how do I resolve my desire to involve the team in their creation with the need to establish a reasonable estimate in a timely manner.

I could establish all of these things by myself with some input from the estimating experts, and use that information to determine an estimate, then ram the project, schedule, process, etc. down the throats of the team when they are assigned.  This is the approach followed by those project managers who buy into the assumption that the plan is right and any variation from the plan are not do to uncertainty with the plan, but some other cause that needs to be managed.

Or, I could follow the dogmatic agile approach and insist that I can’t possibly establish any kind of estimate without the team being in place.  While the estimate generated from this approach may be more reliable, the possibility of getting a full team assigned in an environment where people are moved on and off projects or are assigned to multiple projects at the same time is slim to none.  Being adamant on this approach would probably result in a stalled project or a estimate being provided to the team.

Another approach is to find out who will most likely be on the project, even if it is just a few key people (such as the Process Leader, the Technical Leader, and the Business Leader as I discussed in my article Leading from Within: Supporting the Right Project Team) and work with those folks to sketch out key processes that the team will use for purposes of establishing a reasonable estimate, noting all of these decisions as assumptions to our estimate.  Then, once we have the team identified, and perhaps after getting some of the work under our belts, we would revisit those initial plans and assumptions and revise the estimate accordingly.

This third option is probably the approach I will take, but it is not without difficulties.  In some cases I may not know who will be assigned to the project, or I know who will most likely be assigned to the project, but they are currently tied up on another project and “officially” are not available to work on others.  The trick then becomes how to borrow a couple of hours here and there to discuss ideas and make some decisions, while I do all of the dirty work of recording our decisions.  It’s work that I am willing to do, because it provides a path forward and provide me with educated viewpoints as well as establishes early buy in by future members of the team, even if it makes me less than popular with some of the resource managers.

Of course, living the confidence with humility idea, I realize that I don’t have all of the answers.  One of the reasons I shared this story is because I am curious as to what suggestions you have.  If you have faced this same situation, let me know how you approached it and how it worked (or didn’t work) for you.

In the meantime, I am off to figure out who may be working on the project.

Related Links
Keep notes on who's participating in your project and why with this checklist for organizing a project team. You may want to start drafting your Responsibility Allocation Matrix early on, for better insights into your cross-functional dependencies. Even after you've got your processes in place, you may need to adapt them to the specific circumstances of your team or project.

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

The comments to this entry are closed.

©Copyright 2000-2017 Emprend, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
About us   Site Map   View current sponsorship opportunities (PDF)
Contact us for more information or e-mail
Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

Stay Connected
Get our latest content delivered to your inbox, every other week. New case studies, articles, templates, online courses, and more. Check out our Newsletter Archive for past issues. Sign Up Now

Follow Us!
Linked In Facebook Twitter RSS Feeds

Got a Question?
Drop us an email or call us toll free:
7am-5pm Pacific
Monday - Friday
We'd love to talk to you.

Learn more about ProjectConnections and who writes our content. Want to learn more? Compare our membership levels.