Project coordination... what is that exactly? And is it really necessary? So, you know those status meetings where the project manager wants to know how far everyone has come with their work, who’s doing what and what comes next? These are usually really long meetings with a ton of people. Pretty soon, you start wondering if these meetings actually hurt productivity more than help it.
You assume that project team members are capable of coordinating themselves and making sure that the project is moving along and everyone’s doing what they should be. As a rule of thumb, this is true. Yet projects are becoming more complex and harder for any one person to keep track of. Complex projects generally require more staff, which makes the actual coordination even more difficult. And then oftentimes there are the line activities, which conflict with the project activities. That’s why you need project coordination, and it has to be done effectively and efficiently.
Let’s get one thing clear, though. As a project manager, I cannot and do not want to chase after every person in the project to make sure that he/she is doing the right thing by the right time. If I wanted to do that, I would have become a kindergarten teacher. That probably would’ve been more fun.
You have to see if the project coordination is effective and efficient right from the outset of the project. Based on our experience, the project manager has to make sure - right from the kick-off meeting - that the project culture is designed the way it should be. It should be clear to the staff that working independently and self-reliantly is not just preferable – it's expected. That way, project coordination can be done effectively and with relatively little effort.
If you ask institutions like the IPMA or the PMI, the answer is definitely yes. If you ask the agility world, you’re more likely to get a “yes and no”-answer. Conventional project management is what it sounds like – management. And management means nothing other than telling someone what to do or not to do and when, and then checking the results afterwards. Sounds harsh, but it’s true. That’s why project coordination is necessary.
Agile methods come at this from a different perspective, relying instead on self-organized teams that are not told when to do or not to do something. The team decides on its own. But how does an agile project team coordinate itself? For one thing, they use more intensive communication within the team and institutionalized meetings, e.g. the daily standup in scrum. On the whole, agile projects take less effort to coordinate than conventional projects. The reason for this is that the granulation of the tasks is much finer and thus easier for the team to keep track of.
As already mentioned: how the project coordination will look down the road depends a lot on the project kick-off. But there are still a few tips and tricks that can help you to make your project coordination efficient.
Ask yourself, how many times you’ve been to meetings that went overtime, were unstructured or unmoderated and came to no results. Yet it doesn’t take much to create the conditions for an effective and efficient coordination meeting. With our tips and tricks, you’ll see positive changes fast.