Over the past 15 years in business, we’ve worked on a number of long-term, complex projects, and we’ve learned the importance and benefits of a positive, collaborative approach. We know this is particularly important where there are lots of teams – including external suppliers like us – involved in getting a project to completion. The more open and collaborative we all are, the greater the project’s success will be.

Part of good collaboration is about sharing experiences, and so we wanted to share 7 things we’ve learned about working collaboratively.

1. Open discussion is important
The more open we are, from the very beginning, the better it is for the project. Culturally, this can take more effort than keeping things to ourselves, but staying quiet or failing to raise things often results in wrong assumptions, relationship breakdown and conflict. To avoid this, we start by being open about the project, its challenges and our approach, and we continue to have this type of dialogue as the project progresses. This doesn’t mean lots of unnecessary meetings or conversations – it means keeping communication channels open.

2. Choose the right tools for the project
As engineering design specialists, we have standard tools and software that we use across all projects. It’s important, however, for us to talk to our project partners about the tools they use, how they use them and how our approach might integrate successfully with what’s happening in the project already. This way, we can avoid issues with both practical and project management integration to help keep the project moving.

3. Take responsibility – and be honest about it
Project conflict often occurs when teams or individuals push the blame for something onto others on the project. This creates considerable difficulties and often delays the project, which in turn puts pressure on the budget. By setting out clear responsibilities when we come into a project, and being honest about progress or challenges, we aim to avoid conflict so we can concentrate on completing our work successfully.

4. Understand the project’s purpose and outcomes
We usually work on a dedicated part of a larger project. To do that successfully, we need to understand exactly how our own project fits into the larger picture, including what else will impact our work and who we need to work with in order to fulfil our role. It’s also important to understand the stated outcomes around the part of the project we are involved in. The more information we have, the better placed we are to design and deliver a solution that meets all requirements.

5. Share your knowledge
A complex project is a great opportunity to share and learn. By working with other experts, we broaden our own knowledge and by sharing our own expertise, we add to the knowledge base of internal teams, which in turn can have a positive impact on current and future projects. Sharing also builds confidence and trust – critical to successful multi-team projects.

6. Listen more
Collaboration is more than ‘being nice’. It’s about setting out clear objectives and responsibilities and agreeing behaviours early on in the project that everyone involved is prepared to commit to. One of these behaviours is listening. As we know from personal relationships, it’s easy to stop listening and just wait for a space to start our own conversation. Good listening is an art, and it can reveal important things that can help to resolve conflict, promote better solutions and build long-lasting project relationships.

7. Commit to regular feedback
Constructive feedback is extremely useful in the context of a complex project. It helps to keep things on track, gives everyone the opportunity to discuss progress and prevents issues from getting too big and difficult to solve. We work closely with our customers to put regular, two-way feedback in place so that we can be sure we are delivering the best solutions and service throughout the project.The best-performing projects have good collaboration at the core of what they do. We enjoy working collaboratively with customers to help them achieve their goals with the best solutions for their needs. Why not contact us to find out how we can help you?

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