Communicate & Collaborate

(CC) UBC Learning Commons

Communicate & Collaborate

Looking for the Key of Realisation

A Personal Advice by Michael-Bernhard Zita, MEDLIT Project Manager

Communication in intercultural context is one challenge, output-oriented project communication another one - together you call them a research field of its own.

A (written) plan is only the first step of implementation

Getting things done in time with available resources, everybody together, being one gearwheel of a machine, ideally efficient is what we call the modern division of labor. Optimizing these structures and limiting risks are the goals management should achieve. 

But what to do, if the parts aren't trying to work together on their own, ask how fast to turn while already knowing what to do? Isn't that what we would expect? The role of management is so often, change parts, optimize the collaboration and limit the time, the machine isn't producing.

But in a project you have to do the opposite - you have to build a working machine, often for an abstract, unknown goal out of parts, that weren't designed to work together: Working at different speeds because of different free time, understanding and implementing different things because of different goals, languages and motivations.

So you can only try to motivate, explain risks and consequences that will occur when objectives and deadlines aren't met. That is one part, but more importantly, you have to bring these parts together, so they start speaking to each other. What are the needs and motivations of the organizations and people that came together to collaborate on a project, should be the guideline for any project activity.

Listen, but more importantly act

In an early course paper, I described the role of leading by two qualities: The ability to listen, but also the ability to decide and act based on this decision, also against different views and opinions. Perfect Win-Win situations may occur but because of external conditions, they are very rare.

So the way to go is to communicate, motivate and convince the others to work together, always trying to get close to the proposed outcomes - that can in the end also mean to change the proposed outcomes or that it is better if others take over responsibilities and tasks, because they fit better into the plan or simply just have more time. Working together on a project is an activity that happens on a day-to-day basis. What was possible in one week, can become impossible in another week. Leading so becomes the question of listening, juggling, while staying on course. That is a set of activities that can't be split nor can they be delegated.

As an active lead someone has to have a definition what they want AND need to achieve, with that the project management can help. Also, we can help with bringing the people together that should collaborate or try to assemble different teams. With what we can't help is to speak with each other, find a common base and motivate. In the end, every team, led by a partner institution is a machine of each one, with its own clock, plan and decision-making structure, that would break and would need to be rebuilt if heavily manipulated from outside. Some would say it is a self-organised social system.

So remember, as a lead in a project you have the ability to influence the output but you aren't the one achieving it alone - but listening, motivating, while being actively approaching others are the keys of realization. Reducing complexity by developing options is a more advanced technique, anticipating needs and motivations of other the golden way.

Just to wait that someone waits for your plan and act on your word is a dead end in a project that leads often will experience as it is the way of non-project machines but not one of voluntarily systems of change.

The Face-to-Face communication at project management-related meetings & the Train-the-Faculty workshops was very important to get to know each other and to built trust. But with the changed "Smarter Steering & Monitoring Structures" and especially multiple parallel work packages the need and the active demanding of "Online Communication" is essential for the success of the project. But with the flaws of such channels, the quality of communication and collaboration strategies make the real difference.