How to Collaborate with a Purpose 

by Cerila Gailliard, PMP, CSM

For many of us, collaborations resemble this scenario: A team is brought together; the problem is defined; some, not all, individuals begin to participate in the discussion; a solution is developed, agreed upon and implemented. Sometimes, the solution resolves the problem, but at other times it’s only a band-aid method that merely offers a short-term solution that will need to be resolved again in the near future.

Why do the same problems continue to persist after collaboration has taken place and a solution is implemented? Below we will explore how to overcome this common challenge and how to collaborate with a purpose.

Collaboration with a Purpose

How do we collaborate with a purpose, and what exactly does that mean? To collaborate with a purpose, everyone involved in the process needs to have a guiding principle to help them through the journey, which will then change the collective mindset in the collaboration process.

In Michael Wood’s article “Collaboration: Requirements for Breakthrough Results,” ( he defines collaboration as “An intense comingling of ideas and inspiration shared by two or more people seeking to find solutions to specific challenges and goals that are innovative, practical and achievable within the framework of the organization/communities they serve.”

This is the perfect definition to describe collaborating with a purpose. If we use this definition as a guiding principle in the collaboration process, as Michael Wood states, it is “creating breakthrough solutions; needle-moving outcomes, not those of the casual kind.”

An Effective Collaboration Process

In order to achieve breakthrough solutions and needle-moving outcomes, it’s important to focus on the following priorities at the beginning of the collaboration process:

Clarity — There are two main reasons why problems are not solved properly: The problem is not understood and/or the problem is undefined. It’s crucial to spend time developing a problem statement with the team. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and working toward a mutual goal.

Participation — Throughout the collaborative process, many of us have experienced these two scenarios. Scenario 1: Halfway through the process, the realization is made that certain participants need to be present at the meeting who currently are not. Scenario 2: Certain participants are present at the meeting who are not necessary, and perhaps detrimental to the collaborative process.

Foster Participation and Ideas — You cannot expect to foster a collaborative environment that leads to high-level conversations without having a way to bring out these ideas. Instead, determine in advance which brainstorming techniques will work best for your particular team. There are a number of brainstorming techniques that can be used, such as Nominal Group Technique, Idea/Mind Mapping, Affinity Diagram and many others.

Cerila Gailliard is the owner of Orchestrating Your Success, LLC. and a certified project management professional consultant. Orchestrating Your Success LLC helps businesses manage small to complex projects to ensure they are both effectively and efficiently executed. Visit to learn more about our project management services.

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