Assess your communication styles and readdress the “Norms of Collaboration”

Promoting Project-wide Understanding of the Critical Path for Achieving Project Outcomes.

“The successful execution of large projects usually involves the parallel operation of multiple lines of effort, some of which depend on each other in a sequential manner for data, model simulations, or other inputs and outputs.  It is helpful to outline as early as possible the actions and resources necessary to achieve project outcomes using Gantt charts, a critical path analysis (Willis, 1985, Figure 4.1)... A sound logic model (NIFA 2015) can be a very useful tool for structuring and planning project execution.  Delays in bottleneck regions of the path can be disastrous, so all project participants should be made familiar with the critical path networks and the role they play in it, especially in terms of their responsibilities to pass data or products to other participants. It is beneficial to regularly assess progress along the critical path and update or modify plans as necessary.

Establish Clear Expectations for Participants and Facilitate Participant Success in Meeting Them

“Although proposed page limits typically preclude listing detailed responsibilities for ach anticipated project participant in very large projects, expected participant roles should be outlines in a management plan so these are clear form project inception.  A detailed project management plan that includes each key individual should be developed early during the project or prior to the award period. This plan should include:

  • expectations for interactions among team members and for participant accountability,
  • procedures for conflict resolution,
  • expectations for earning authorship, and
  • rights to intellectual property.

“The management plan should delineate:

  • project deliverables and milestones,
  • the metrics to be used to assess progress and completion,
  • specific actions,
  • reporting requirements,
  • due dates, and
  • persons responsible for each project milestone and deliverable.

“Project-wide, there will need to be an understanding that these milestones and deliverables may be modified as the project progresses.  Throughout the project, these milestones and deliverables should be kept current both to ensure participant accountability and to avoid amorphous or runaway  expectations that are difficult to achieve that would otherwise lead to frustration by project leadership and participants alike.”

NIFA - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (2005)  Logic model planning process.

Willis, R. J. (1985)  Critical path analysis and resource constrained project scheduling - theory and practice.  European Journal of Operations Research, 11: 149-155.

Quoted from Pages 30 and 32 in Eigenbrode, S. D., Martin, T., Wright Morton, L., Colletti, J., Goodwin, P., Gustafson, R., Hawthorne, D., Johnson, A., Kliet, J. T., Pearl. S., Richard, T., and Wolcott, M. (2017) Leading large transdisciplinary projects addressing social-ecological systems:  A primer for project directors.

Communicate in a way that encourages collaboration (The "7 Norms of Collaboration")

There are particular habits that a team can adopt that will help people feel comfortable about offering ideas, critiques, and questions of clarification.  All in the team should follow these norms:

  1.  Pausing.  Pausing before responding or asking a question allows time for thinking and enhances dialogue, discussion and decision-making.
  2. Paraphrasing.  Using a paraphrase starter that is comfortable for you -  “So…” or “As you are…” or “You’re thinking…” --and following the starter with an efficient paraphrase assists members of the group in hearing and understanding one another as they converse and make decisions.
  3. Posing questions.  Two intentions of posing questions are to explore and to specify thinking.  Questions may be posed to explore perceptions, assumptions, and interpretations, and to invite others to inquire into their thinking.  For example, “What might be some conjectures you are exploring?” Use focusing questions such as, “Which students, specifically?” or “What might be an example of that?” to increase the clarity and precision of group members’ thinking.  Inquire into others’ ideas before advocating one’s own.
  4. Putting Ideas on the Table.  Ideas are the heart of meaningful dialogue and discussion.  Label the intention of your comments. For example, “Here is one idea…” or “One thought I have is…” or “Here is a possible approach…” or “Another consideration might be…”
  5. Providing Data. Providing data, both qualitative and quantitative, in a variety of forms supports group members in constructing shared understanding from their work.  Data have no meaning beyond that which we make of them; shared meaning develops from collaboratively exploring, analyzing, and interpreting the data.
  6. Paying Attention to Self and Others.  Meaningful dialogue and discussion are facilitated when each group member is conscious of self and of others, and is aware of what (s)he is saying and how it is said as well as how others are responding.  This includes paying attention to learning styles when planning, facilitating, and participating in group meetings and conversations.
  7. Presuming Positive Intentions.  Assuming that others’ intentions are positive promotes and facilitates meaningful dialogue and discussion, and prevents unintentional put-downs.  Using positive intentions in speech is one manifestation of this norm.

Quoted from the “Norms of Collaboration” Toolkit, from Adaptive Schools Seminar and Cognitive Coaching Seminars.  The whole toolkit, including self and group assessments can be found here.

Want to Learn More About the 7 Norms?

As mentioned  in Phase 2, if you would like someone to lead a workshop or “lunch-and-learn” session, email Maritza Salazar Campo at

If, however, you would like to lead a workshop yourself and/or need a refresher, please revisit :