True collaboration requires delegation

I’ve seen a lot of meetings where many activities and processes are done in the name of collaboration. In some cases, it is collaboration. In other cases, it seems like a lot of other items and issues are being disguised as collaboration. Who after all could argue against collaboration?

To be efficient, I believe collaboration requires two basic things:

1) The majority vote – If you have a session where you are collaborating on items and the majority vote is not the method of decision-making, you probably aren’t collaborating. And nothing makes people more frustrated than being led to believe they are collaborating and then the will of the majority is vetoed. That just says to the people that you are only committed to the appearance of collaboration.

2) Appropriate Level – If you have a session where the items being discussed are too high or to low for the attendee, you also don’t have efficient collaboration. In both cases, some people will lack the appropriate context to collaborate effectively. In many cases, people find the sessions interesting and valuable but it can cause issues for the collaboration to occur.


Evaluate your meetings in regards to these collaboration criteria. The common factor in these principles is that they both require delegation. The delegation to the majority decision and the delegation to not attend if the level is inappropriate. In both cases you are delegating and trusting those people.

I’d be interested in hearing other criteria you feel are required.



Author: Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

3 thoughts on “True collaboration requires delegation”

  1. Collaboration to me also implies equal participation and shared ownership, which I think speaks to your core points of majority vote and delegation. Even if some project or idea is “your baby”, when you invite people to collaborate, you need to shift that sense of ownership and control over to the group and allow it to evolve, even if it is taking a direction you didn’t originally intend. That comment comes from experience, where I realized after the fact that I was still too personally invested in something to trust the rest of my team enough to share the responsibility.


  2. I’m at a conference in Edmonton, listening to a brutal set of topics -so I’ll write.

    I disagree true collaboration can occur in a team that uses “majority votes”. Votes can just as easily get to the survivor syndrome.

    To be truly collaborative, you need a “no one left behind” rule. Also known as “take no exceptions”. That means the effort must be made to get people to the point they will take no exceptions, versus disagree and are outvoted. They don’t have to agree, and the need to abstain.

    Occasionally it may be necessary to vote someone off the island, but the take no exception role will always ensure the hidden risks get a thorough airing.

    Sent from my iPad


    1. Good discussion.

      We have had a lot of situations where collaboration is important, but consensus is not possible. I like the idea that perhaps you can get people to abstain to recognize that they don’t have the context to contribute, but sometimes that isn’t possible. Every person would get as much time as needed to state and discuss their position, but everyone is expected to support the group decision once it is made. In many situations, I have seen too many collaborative sessions held up or decided by a person of a higher status that may not have had all the context required.

      My post was intended to provide a signal that if you have a situation where you can’t let the majority decide direction, you may not trust the team and have not delegated responsibility to your team.

      One of the hardest things I have ever done is supported the decision of the team when I disagreed with it. In almost all of those cases it turned on to be the right decision as they had more context and expertise than I had. (although it didn’t appear so at the time)


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