~ By Ty Kiisel
Whenever I speak with someone about project management and social media I tend to get one of two reactions. They either see the value right away or they don't get it at all-dismissing the socialisation of project management out of hand. After a few minutes of conversation, their negative attitude seems to boil down to the following two arguments:
Most of the angst about using social networking within the project management process comes from a lack of understanding. I agree with those who suggest that simply incorporating a Twitter-like activity stream or mimicking Facebook isn't a legitimate strategy for socialising the project management process. If that's the sum total of your social project management strategy, I don't believe it will help you accomplish much.
That being said, the workforce today utilises social media in their daily lives for a number of personal activities, making it an easily recognisable metaphor for making work management processes more accessible. The way the workforce interacts with media today is significantly different than what we were doing 30 years ago. If we can successfully capture the essence of what makes social media work generally, within the work management context, I see the increase in collaboration, communication and visibility a potential productivity boon.
What's more, Generation X and Y are accustomed to having more control over what they do and when they do it than any generation of workers before them. Furthermore, they have been trained to do their work in collaborative environments and are accustomed to receiving immediate feedback and recognition.
Old-school management concepts like top-down command-and-control are still at the heart of traditional project management methodologies and make it difficult to effectively lead and manage today's workforce. I believe this paradigm must change if we want to enable the workforce to achieve maximum productivity and perceive what they do as more than "just a job." I think we need to realise that project managers should no longer "own" project status data, their team members should. Project managers should be expected to look ahead and plan how to overcome obstacles through better communication not increased micromanagement. The more project managers become leaders, and they less they act like drill sergeants, the more successful project teams will become.
Fortunately, getting started doesn't necessarily involve any kind of social media tools (although there are many). The most important place to start is with the right frame of mind:
Whether or not you determine to use a project management solution that incorporates tools that facilitate these types of behaviours, or you choose to use stand-alone social media tools, is largely up to you. The questions you need to ask include:
Socialising (and democratising) the process just makes sense to me. Those closest to the work really do understand it best. And, they should be "enabled" to provide input into time-lines, milestones, and deliverables if project leaders really want accurate information. Does that mean that the project leaders role diminishes? Not in the least. In my opinion, their role is elevated as it evolves into more of a sophisticated leadership role. Project leaders who are able to grasp the vision of relinquishing the arcane notions of managing people with a top-down philosophy are seeing their project teams increase productivity. I hear from people all the time who tell me that this mindset was not only liberating in terms of the decrease in time they spent glued to the computer screen; involving their teams in more of the project planning process increases team member engagement, increased team camaraderie, and improved productivity.
In today's world, socialising the work management process makes sense. What are you doing to democratise project management and engage your project teams?