Blog Post

Going From Personal Projects to Collaboration With Chris Brogan

There is an incredible difference between handling your work when you’re the only person who you need to keep on track and when you’ve got to work with an entire team. Chris Brogan has made the transition between those two situations and then some: with his different projects, he has worked with different teams in different ways.

“When I was solo, I mostly worked on the ‘get whatever was in front of me done’ track more often than not, because I was kind of rebelling from my former project management days. Now, because I have a team again, I’m having to warm myself back into having projects with obvious components — beginnings, middles, and ends — and with all the heartache of multiple human points of contact,” says Brogan. “The good news is that I know what I like and what I don’t. The bad news is that if I’m going to grow this business, I’ll have to grow up, stop rebelling, and use a project system that works for everyone. I can swear this, though: it won’t be some rigid overworked project management system, and it won’t be something on Rails.”

The Right Tools for the Right Team

It’s taken Brogan and his team at New Marketing Labs some trial and error to find the tools with the right fit. He says, “We’ve settled on something homegrown, only because it worked best for a multitude of things, and / or because we wanted to integrate a few things.”

But the solution that works best at New Marketing Labs isn’t necessarily what Brogan needs on other projects. Human Business Works, which soft-launched in June, is managed through a handful of spreadsheets in Google Docs (s goog). This approach has already worked well for Brogan when he collaborated on his book, “Trust Agents.” His co-author, Julien Smith, and he simply wrote the project in a shared Google Doc and talked about it through IM.

Brogan has found that it’s not just a question of the right tools, but the right fit: “I definitely use different tools for different people, because some people are more ‘right brain.’ Other people are more interested in linear time. It’s definitely a situation where I mix and match project styles to the collaborator or team.”

Making the Transition from Individual to Enterprise

The process of managing the change between working solo and collaborating with a team may be a little bumpy, but Brogan has noticed one challenge in his changeover that has particularly stood out. “In managing a team, I have to slow down and educate. I have to teach them to fish instead of firing off little bits. In fact, I’m more at risk of just letting people roam off into the jungles and figure out how they’ll get it done themselves, but then, that can really cause angst. I tend to believe that most people know how to do whatever they’re sent to do. Only I forget that most people don’t remember that.”

If he was making the transition today, Brogan suggests that the big change he would make would be to record the reasoning behind why he does things the way he does: “I’d have spent a little more time documenting my thought process, so that people could unravel it at their own pace.”

Have you made the transition from working solo to collaborating with a team? What lessons did you learn?

Photo by Flickr user affiliatesummit, licensed under CC 2.0

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