Think of collaborative project management as a co-op supermarket.
Traditional project teams are like your typical supermarket. Each employee works on tasks delegated by their manager but may not have a sense of ownership over the direction of the supermarket.
In collaborative project management, your team is more like a co-op. They participate together in the plans and strategies of the supermarket. This allows employees and managers alike to collaborate and have a stake in the store’s direction — and, ultimately, success.
Collaborative project management promotes communication and teamwork, leading to higher productivity and improved project outcomes.
With these four best practices, you can transform your team dynamics and create a collaborative environment.
What is collaborative project management?
Collaborative project management decentralizes project planning. Rather than assigning a project manager to delegate tasks, all tasks are shared across team members, including planning, decision-making, and execution.
Collaborative vs. traditional project management: What’s the difference?
The main difference between collaborative and traditional project management is the overall ownership and involvement in each task.
Traditional project management
In traditional project management, a project manager is responsible for task delegations and knowledge transfers. Usually, they have an overall project goal, take ownership for managing competing priorities, and decide on the tasks for each team member.
For example, imagine you're part of a team of developers creating a food delivery app. In a traditional setup, the project manager would control the development roadmap, KPIs, communication, and information gathering.
If your role is to build a strong user experience, then your progress and knowledge of the food app will depend on the information your project manager shares. Your ability to track progress and intervene if, for example, the payment features aren't developed as you envisioned, relies on communication with your project manager instead of being able to collaborate directly with the developer building the payment feature.
Collaborative project management
On the other hand, in collaborative project management, each team member is part of the conversation when it comes to goals and task planning. In this case, each employee has the ability to change the strategy if necessary. That means each team member has ownership over the project’s direction and can decide which steps to take.
Now imagine the same food delivery app, except this time, each developer owns the product's goals, the project plan, and the tasks, and information is shared through open communication and collaboration.
Again, let’s say you're in charge of user experience — with the collaborative model, you can directly share knowledge, change priorities and tasks, and communicate with the developers creating the payment feature. This saves time, improves the final project quality, and allows each team to have control over the project's success.
Characteristics of collaborative project management
Collaborative project management involves all project participants in the planning, decision-making, and execution. This ownership of tasks empowers teams to collaborate, take ownership of the success of a project, and reduce information silos.
The main characteristics of collaborative project management include:
- Open communication: Team members bring up problems and solutions thanks to shared knowledge and ownership.
- Centralized team knowledge: Skills and information are shared among team members.
- Shared ownership: Each team member has ownership over the direction and process of the project.
- Accountability: The entire team feels accountable for each step of the project.
- Aligned project management: The constant flow of clear communication allows team members to pivot to align their tasks for better outcomes.
- Clear workflow: Each participant understands how their tasks affect other team members' progress.
- Task management: Teams allocate tasks as a group based on workload, availability, and skill set.
4 best practices for collaborative project management
Teams that aren’t used to a collaborative style of project management and shared ownership might struggle adjusting to different dynamics. So, for collaborative project management to be a success, teams need the right procedures and practices to be put in place in order to build a shared understanding and empower each stakeholder.
To encourage participation and project ownership from your team, you need the right tools, an Agile methodology, collaboration, and transparency.
Related: A team charter template you can use today
1. Empower your team with the right tools
To empower your team to manage a project collectively, you need tools to communicate, centralize information, and collaborate.
- Collaboration tools: Help teams visualize and record projects. A collaboration space like Mural allows employees to speed up decision-making and align on a vision, design agile ceremonies and workflows, and make cross-functional collaboration more productive so teams spend less time in meetings.
- Asynchronous communication tools: Enable employees to talk with one another through asynchronous platforms, regardless of time zones. An internal comms tool like Microsoft Teams keeps information from getting lost in email chains, meetings, or old documents.
- Centralized knowledge tools: Share, edit, and work on documents together with knowledge management resources like Google Workspace or Confluence.
The core tool for any collaborative project should be a visual platform like Mural, where your team can contribute ideas and create roadmaps and project tasks (in real time, or asynchronously) using a shared digital space, like an online whiteboard. This helps teams visualize the process and understand how each task affects other tasks. Clear understanding and communication are crucial for project management success, especially when ownership is shared across the team.
By enabling your team to collaborate on a project roadmap with the right tools, they can see the goal, method, and tasks that lead to a complete project. This allows teams to anticipate and preemptively overcome any potential challenges.
With a tech stack designed for collaboration, employees can centralize documents and knowledge, communicate with one another directly, and have ownership over changing aspects of the roadmap. This allows employees to share accountability, thanks to the transparency of the project and the data shared.
2. Try the Agile method
Agile methodology complements collaborative project management thanks to its continuous feedback loop and hands-on task management. Agile methodology breaks up a project into various stages and smaller tasks, and it’s popular among development teams as it allows teams to pivot and communicate tasks efficiently.
This is because agile project management adapts to project progress and encourages continuous communication and transparency. This is achieved through daily stand-up meetings that align the team with task progress and sprint retrospectives.
For example, if you’re using agile methodology, part of the process is to run sprint planning meetings. Here, the foundation of the next “sprint” or project requires the attendance of the development team and the product manager, so every team member understands the goals and together creates a framework for the upcoming tasks.
To help your team lean into collaborative project management, use agile methodology to guide meeting types. These are sprint planning, daily stand-ups, sprint reviews, and sprint retrospectives. And use templates to track and share project updates, so no information is lost.
Interested in learning more about agile meetings? Learn how to run efficient agile meetings.
3. Improve collaboration with team-building activities
For collaborative project management to work, you need strong team dynamics built on trust and partnership. One way to achieve that is through activities that improve communication and strengthen team relationships.
Use short activities before meetings to break the ice and get teams comfortable with conversation and engagement. This allows team members to understand different personalities, learn to communicate with one another, and build relationships. It can be as simple as asking fun icebreaker questions like, “What’s your favorite style of socks.”
To add team-building activities, start by designating 5-15 minutes of activity time at the start of a meeting. Then, choose which activity best fits the meeting agenda and mood of the team. Some good examples are virtual icebreakers, team trivia, or lateral-thinking puzzles.
4. Make communication transparent
Transparent communication and project updates help teams adjust their priorities and avoid feeling left in the dark, especially when it comes to spotting roadblocks.
It also helps create an environment of psychological safety and trust — two vital components of any high–performing team.
Transparent and safe communication channels allow experienced employees to give constructive feedback and tips to junior team members, and newbies are able to share in project ownership from day one. In the long run, this improves the quality of a project's outcome.
With clear communication and transparency, all employees are aligned on the project's current state and how to achieve their team goals. On the other hand, if communication and knowledge aren't shared, you risk employees becoming misaligned and losing sight of the project's direction.
Pro tip: To achieve transparency, opt for open, asynchronous communication channels. This empowers folks to connect when they have solutions instead of employees having to reach out individually. And by removing siloed conversations, teams can keep an eye on progress and offer updates or point out roadblocks before they become bigger challenges.
Shared content and knowledge platforms are key to collaborative project management. Every team member must have the same access and ownership of information and data. This allows teams to understand the product's current state and branding and add their documents and knowledge to share with other team members.
Speed up decision-making and improve vision alignment with Mural
Bringing everyone together in a shared digital space levels the playing field, encourages communication and transparency, and ensures that your best ideas won’t be lost.
A single source of truth, like a mural that captures brainstorming, progress, feedback and next steps helps your team stay engaged post-meetings and furthers your momentum toward your goals.
Pro-tip: You can save your meeting material in your Mural content library to keep track of your team’s progress and help everyone prepare for the tasks ahead. This makes team meeting tasks, follow-ups, and check-ins efficient and transparent.
With Mural, you can empower your team to collaborate continuously, regardless of location. Get started today with a Free Forever account, and invite unlimited visitors (included with every membership), so your whole team — or organization — can get engaged, track progress, and win, together.