Project Management, by its nature, is social. Communications is at the heart of what we do as project managers. We project managers are constantly talking to people. influencing, proposing, negotiating, mediating and, our favorite, updating. We are über communicators, and that will never change but HOW we communicate not only has but must.
Being agile in 2018 is more than just a way to plan and execute a process. It’s about the engagement of each member of the team and of your stakeholders. By adopting social project management practices, such as transparency and collaboration, we are better able to deliver quickly and iteratively because our teams are more engaged and happier. And, happy teams mean smiling clients. “With the rise of social software platforms, many (project managers) are coming to believe that transparent collaboration and planning make for faster workflow, better results, and happier teams.” (Liz Pearce, How social tools work for project management)
So, HOW you may ask, does a social platform help you manage your project better? Well, wouldn’t it be great if you knew what was happening with your project/team right now? If you could know the status of a critical issue in real time? What I’m talking about is Information when you need it, where you need it.
Collaboration software, such as Huddle, Wrike, Smartsheet, and BeeKeeper, can make all the difference keeping you up and in the know. When you use a collaborate platform you experience something psychologist’s call ambient awareness. Leisa Reichelt, a User Experience Expert, says that ambient awareness “is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible.” If you missed it, I first talked about ambient awareness in my post on Solving the Project Managers Social Dilemma – Part 2.
“Ambient awareness is a way of describing the idea of being “ambiently aware” of another’s actions, thoughts and experiences without having to be near them physically, and without specifically requesting such information.” Cyborg Anthropology
Using social software on projects allows teams to experience a level of connectivity that they may never have realized before, not even in physical co-location. Reality theorist Sheldon Renan calls it “loosely but deeply entangled.” It reminds me of the Jungian psychology concept of “collective unconsciousness,” where a part of the unconscious mind is shared by a society, a people, or all humankind. I’ll call what happens to the project team the ‘collective present.‘ Everyone on a project collectively participates in the dynamic flow of the information and is accountable for their parts in a way they never were before. They are responsible for creating and keeping up the data flow. And, as part of this ‘collective present’ on a project, the connections are wider and contain more possible touch points for interaction. The team, the client, the stakeholders, all those that are part of the collaborative process through social media, now are part of the ‘collective present’ of the project and have data-driven information (and accountability), elevating the project knowledge to a new level of engagement.
To help you visualize this concept of ambient awareness, think about how young people use their mobile devices today. They are in constant contact with their cohort. They know where everyone is almost all the time because they ‘check in’ on social networks, they ‘Geo-tag,’ and they Tweet. No one needs to update anyone on the who, what, where, or how, because ‘they just know.’ This new awareness is bringing back the dynamics of small-town life, where everybody knew your business and therefore you had to be genuine and honest and REAL. Think about it: you probably know more about your Facebook friends than you do the neighbor down the street unless of course, the neighbor is on Facebook. You know what is going on around the world from your News Feeds  and you can pick and choose what to act on, or not.
Incorporating the work styles of the digital generation into the more traditional business models, like project management, is showing good rewards. Ambient awareness improves the communications and project knowledge of the team, which in the end, translates into better delivery of the project. Being ‘in’ the project versus being ‘told about’ the project, changes the speed of understanding and the sense of personal engagement. Seems like a ‘win’ to me.
Still don’t believe me? Think about the traditional project manager who is usually, the single point person that updates the plans and milestones, creates Gantt charts, holds endless status meetings, and updates the team and client, maybe weekly. Now think about the social project manager – whose team collaboratively updates the milestones and activities as part of the project process, reducing the need for status meetings (since status is known by all ambiently) and where team members follow what each other are doing, subscribe to each other’s feeds, and basically, work in the ‘collective present’ in a new and improved way. Team time is now for greater collaboration and development. Even clients could be updated through the social process.
How do you keep your team engaged? What tools are you using to keep them up-to-date and in the moment? Let me know. And remember to keep up the good attitude.
- Disambiguity — Leisa Reichelt’s Professional Blog. October 2011
- “Three Best Ways to Use Location-Based Social Media”. Riva Richmond, The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, Inc., September 10, 2010
- Brave New World of Digital Intimacy, Clive Thompson, The New York Time Magazine, September 5, 2008
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 24, 2013, and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.