Why collaboration is key in project management—A story by Ordonna Sargeant

Ordonna Sargeant

Last week, Brett Harned shared his story about the importance of assessing project scope and involving the right people. This week, Director, Data Governance at American Express, and experienced PMP, Ordonna Sargeant, talks about what happens when you don’t have clearly defined team roles and why collaboration is the key to success in project management.

You can read all the stories in our latest eBook, Confessions of a Project Manager. Download your free copy here.


Earlier in my career, I was a technical program manager and worked in a smaller company. This company didn’t have experience with project managers and my project management experience didn’t include coding skills.

The misalignment was this: my management team expected me to personally confirm both functional and non-functional requirements of a product build. I was managing the client expectations, the budget, and the multiple workstreams of a complex program. Meanwhile, my company was completely new to Agile development and there was an unspoken expectation that I would also fill the product manager role and the program manager role.

The truth was I wasn’t equipped to be a product manager.

I decided to facilitate a workshop where we would discuss the roles in Agile development and identify who was currently filling these roles. The goal? I wanted to identify who had the skillset for these roles.

The day of the workshop arrived. Here are a few things that made it a success:

  • I made it as interactive as possible
  • We reviewed past projects together
  • I had the team identify who managed specific features
  • I had the team identify the definition of “done”

I also asked questions like who was responsible for outlining the quality attributes of our products and ensuring they happened. Were these shared responsibilities, and what was the process? While they spoke, I gladly documented everything.

Next, I drafted a RACI (responsibility assignment matrix) and an onboarding document for my management team.

The company was unique in they wanted me to collaborate with the product manager on requirement gathering to ensure client expectations were met. (I feared they wanted me to solely own that responsibility.)

The dev team appreciated the workshop because they felt seen and valued. Because before, their work had gone unnoticed and the unappreciation started to show up in their code. But now, the whole team had the opportunity to grow—together.

Both process changes and cultural changes came from that meeting. The tailoring of the company allowed everyone the chance to learn something new and strengthen their skillset, something the project, clients, and ultimately the entire company would all benefit from in the end.

Lesson learned: Collaboration is key

If you see a gap or misalignment don’t assume there’s only one solution. Collaboration is key in project management. You’re not alone. Bring your knowledge to the forefront. Technical project management will always evolve because technology is always growing. Look at these moments as opportunities to learn.

You have more influence than you know.

Does this story resonate with you?

Discover more in our eBook, Confessions of a Project Manager, where PM practitioners, authors, and agency insiders share the stories that defined their careers—and the lessons they learned along the way.

Download your copy today

Download the eBook, Confessions of a Project Manager

Meet Ordonna Sargeant

Ordonna Sargeant has over 15 years of experience as a project and program manager for system/software implementations and product development. She is a Global Technical Program Manager by trade. Ordonna was a Program Director at Wunderman Thompson where she was responsible for a global digital program management team.

She obtained her BA from Hampton University and her MPA from Metropolitan College of New York, where she is now an Adjunct Professor. She is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and Agile Certified Professional (ACP) through the Project Management Institute and a Certified Scrum Master through Scrum Alliance. Born and raised in Brooklyn, you can find Donna creating reels about the exciting and challenging life of Project Managers or with her husband and two daughters doing something adventurous.

Her successful career experience includes managing programs and projects for clients such as Goldman Sachs, L’Oréal, General Motors, Volkswagen, NBCU, and Twitter.

Connect with Ordonna on LinkedIn.