Part 1 Series Introduction


The Road to Responsible Collaboration


By Robin Hornby

Alberta, Canada

Summary: In this series, Robin Hornby argues that the effectiveness of project management is improved by driving project responsibility into the organization and creating conditions favorable to ‘responsible collaboration’. But this collaborative environment will not fall naturally into place without the support of senior management and the adoption of enabling frameworks, guidelines, and techniques. In this introductory article, Robin defines the terminology and concepts central to the series, explains the two themes that inspire collaborative working, and outlines the articles to follow.


I want to describe a new way to look at projects. A way that has at its heart two themes – collaborative project engagement, and business alignment. They are closely related, and ultimately result in what I call a Delivery Organization. This organization-centric concept of project management (PM) acknowledges the obvious – corporate projects operate in a corporate environment which can be favorable or unfavorable. A favorable environment offers higher productivity and, with good intentions, may foster responsible collaboration. But good intentions are not enough, and a roadmap for owners and providers is essential. It modifies how the project is managed, but the principles of sound PM do not change. Many responsibilities and related activities of the project manager (the PM) become collaborative, and the PM transforms from cajoler, conciliator, and issuer of directives to organizer and facilitator of a natural and anticipated process.

Concepts and Terminology

Universality: The prescriptions for collaboration are designed to be universal, i.e., apply regardless of an inhouse or vendor provider. A common language and process for project teams helps avoid silos, regardless of how they are sourced. (This does not mean that vendors do not face unique problems, they certainly do, and the interested reader may investigate my earlier book, Commercial Project Management1, for a complete analysis.)

Owner: Generic, universal name for the beneficiary of the project.  It embraces specific terms such as buyer, client, sponsor, steering committee, or business team.

Provider: Generic, universal name for the organization providing the technical team and delivering the project, who may be inhouse or contracted.

Delivery Organization: A collective term for both the owner and provider who have adopted the collaborative themes of project engagement and alignment.

Responsible Collaboration: This usually abbreviates to collaboration, but I mean something very specific. The qualifier strengthens the simple idea of ‘working together’, which is the dictionary definition. It also helps correct the prevalent notion that stakeholders have rights, but no corresponding duties and responsibilities.  The word has been used historically to describe the usual circumstance of the PM working collaboratively with the team. This just requires the common-sense to consult prior to decision-making, to listen to ideas, to ensure tasks are assigned with care and amended based on feedback, that results are valued, and everyone is treated respectfully. The word has also been applied to non-hierarchical self-directed teams which may or may not be collaborative but in most cases are no way to run a project. All these ideas are discussed elsewhere in the literature and are not my concern.

Collaborative Project Engagement: This usually abbreviates to engagement, a realisation of responsible collaboration between owner and provider to engage in joint administrative and management practices. These areas have suffered unnecessarily from discord, impediments, inaccuracies, and omissions arising from owner discouragement or non-participation.


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Editor’s note: This series of articles is by Robin Hornby, author of four books including A Concise Guide to Project Collaboration: Building a Delivery Organization (Routledge 2023) and Ccommercial Project Management: A Guide for Selling and Delivering Professional Services (Routledge 2017). Learn more about the author in his profile below.

How to cite this paper: Hornby, R. (2023). Part 1 Series Introduction, The Road to Responsible Collaboration, series article, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue V, May. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/pmwj129-May2023-Hornby-introduction-collaboration-series-1.pdf

About the Author

Robin Hornby

Alberta, Canada


Robin Hornby worked in Information Technology for over 40 years, taught project management at Mount Royal University for 12 years and maintained a consulting practice. He worked across Canada and internationally, was a long-time holder of the PMP designation, and presented frequently at PMI symposia. He pioneered many delivery management practices and is the author of four books. His latest book titled A Concise Guide to Project Collaboration: Building a Delivery Organization was published in 2023 by Routledge.  For more information, visit www.tmipm.com. Robin Hornby can be contacted at rchornby@shaw.ca