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I work in a US company. Because of continuity, my equivalent from the European division keeps getting involved in the most interesting projects I am working on. I know that he aims at having "global" involvement.

My manager wants me to be collaborative, and he wants to keep good relationships with that guy's manager.

I want to keep leading my projects, projects for which I left my old job.

How can I be open for collaborations, while avoiding interference and keeping the lead? It feels like a battle to keep control. This must be a common occurrence in big organisations, so I am looking for generally applicable guidance.

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    So, this counterpart of yours, to what extend to they "get involved" in your interesting projects? If the goal of such involvement is to be aware of the whole Company's projects, why (if any) is this counterpart suggesting changes or additions to the projects you lead? – DarkCygnus Jul 4 at 22:35
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    What exactly are you trying to avoid? If you're collaborating with someone, presumably that collaborator will have some control of the direction of the project. Otherwise you're failing to collaborate. Do you consider that "interference"? Or is there something specific that this colleague is doing that you have a problem with? Do you have a history of successfully collaborating with others at this company that don't cause you problems? In your title, you say that the company is "hyper-collaborative" but it sounds like you're describing very garden variety collaboration. – Justin Cave Jul 4 at 22:53
  • Are you having to give up the projects entirely to that counterpart? – さりげない告白 Jul 5 at 1:48
  • Are you looking for scrum's Standups? – Martijn Jul 5 at 11:34
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How can I be open for collaborations, while avoiding interference and keeping the lead?

The two here are not mutually exclusive, nor should they be. Good leaders will encourage any collaboration and input from elsewhere, so long as that is done in a respectful and sensible fashion.

Where this can easily often go wrong is if:

  • Alice doesn't really want to collaborate, so doesn't offer much insight into the project to others, or any structure for collaborating;
  • Bob does want to collaborate, and sees this lack of insight as a reason to pipe up with lots of his great ideas, dropping by ad-hoc to present these ideas;
  • Alice gets annoyed that Bob's ideas are mostly irrelevant or not focused on the task at hand, and are wasting her time, so gets frustrated and offers even less insight into what's going on to try to ward off Bob;
  • Cycle repeats.

If you want to break that cycle, then offer detailed insight into your project & its current status, and a structure for the two of you to sit down and mull his ideas (and yours) over. That can take the form of a meeting a week where you present the current state of the project, design decisions, challenges, etc., a couple of meetings a week (maybe one where you present the status, and then another a few days later where you discuss ideas), or something else entirely.

If he's still going way off-piste and suggesting things that are particularly irrelevant or outlandish after that, and this is a recurring habit, then at least at that point you have the paper trail to prove that collaboration with this individual just isn't panning out.

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