Building a collaborative project framework

Building a collaborative project framework involves thinking about the connections between how we talk, what we talk about, and what happens afterwards. What kind of infrastructure supports making those connections?

Two things I think are essential to structuring collaborative projects are:

  1. People need the places and opportunities to have the important conversations
  2. Those conversations need to be effectively integrated within project structures

Inspired in part by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams, and their call for organizations to create more infrastructure to facilitate collaboration, I came up with a mental model that integrates people (and their interests), conversational techniques, ICT, and project management. As a diagram, I picture it something like this:



This framework emphasizes a collaborative platform for authentic conversations (= dialogue), within a project context.


The platform design takes into account:

  • the interests and needs of project stakeholders (e.g., for open, transparent decision-making)
  • available conversation techniques; including a mix of online (e.g., social media) and offline (e.g., Open Space Technology)
  • available collaborative technologies and capacities (e.g., Web 2.0)
  • integration with specific project phases, activities and deliverables (e.g., important conversations are itemized in the project work plan, and the work plan harmonizes with standard project management conventions).

One should be able to tailor the platform to the project context. For example, the conversational platform for building project partnerships will likely (hopefully?) be different from the platform you use to conduct weekly project status meetings. This may seem intuitive; yet intentionally applying a nuanced approach to conversation design will contribute to the quality of the conversations (structure influences behaviour).

Note: In the diagram, I drew one-way arrows to simplify things. In practice, feedback loops would/should likely be the norm.

What do you think of this framework? What mental model do you use to vision a collaborative project?

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