Project Management

Collaboration Chaos: When Virtual Documents Get Out of Control

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at [email protected] Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

Collaboration has always been a critical part of how projects get done. People working together to develop ideas, improve solutions and refine approaches result in the best possible project outputs with the greatest chance of enabling the required business outcomes. But until the pandemic hit, there was no real record of a lot of that collaboration.

Teams of people would sit in a meeting room or in a collaborative workspace and throw ideas around—discard some, improve others, note some on the whiteboard and then wipe them off and replace them with something else. Over time, teams got to where they needed to be, and they wouldn’t have gotten there without a lot of those intermediate steps. But once the destination has been reached, a lot of how the team got there was lost. That was okay…all that work wasn’t needed because it was the final solution that mattered.

But today, things are different. While collaboration still happens on video conferences as virtual brainstorms, a lot of it is happening in the document management aspects of those collaboration tools. We’ve all seen it—the two-page document with five pages of embedded comments and suggestions marked by back-and-forth debates about the smallest aspect of the work (and confusion over the meaning of a rushed suggestion that logically doesn’t make sense).

There are …

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"All generalizations are dangerous, even this one."

- Alexandre Dumas