Doing Project Management, Socially


At some point, everybody is a project manager.

From planning a birthday party for a 3 year old to delivering a complex application for a banking client, the way you get the tasks done is called project management.  But just because humans are social, that does not make the application of project management to your tasks – Social Project Management.  It is clear that few people know what Social Project Management is yet or how to use it.

The other day I found a perfect example of the misuse of the term Social Project Management. While doing my daily internet reading I stumbled on an article called Social Project Management: A Necessary Element for Success. It was about managing a social media strategy by using project management (which is a great idea). They were applying traditional project management to a project whose product was a social media strategy.  That is not Social Project Management but project management of something with content, that just happens to be about something social .  Obviously, when a concept is very new, it can easily be misunderstood.

As business moves more and more into the social spaces, and with downsizing, rightsizing, the push to a ‘results only work environment [1]‘ and the advent of ubiquitous computing power in the hands of all employees, people are becoming what I call ‘accidental project managers.’  It is not their job title, or even something they knowingly pursue, but employees are personally managing a broader range of tasks in their work assignments and the flow of the information they use and create now sits in their hands more than ever before.  Team sizes are shrinking and practitioner work load is increasing and each person is taking on the responsibility for self-directed delivery.  Everyone is doing mini-projects and becoming an accidental project manager.

Not that accidental project management is bad at all, I think it is perfect for adoption of Social Project Management.  In response to the shift in business priorities and organizational transformations, project management has been becoming more agile over the last few years, and it should.  By leveraging the good work being done in social design, a few early adopters are starting to break down the silos, streamline collaboration, and drive transparency into the dynamism that characterizes a project. [2]  This is enabling collaborative productivity across small teams, empowering small-scale projects to leverage the transparency of social media, keeping  everyone up-to-date and engaged.

projectclipBig projects, complex and multinational programs, program management offices (PMO) and large-scale operations may always need the more traditional PM methods and the dedicated delivery professional.  There is a long history of solid governance and successful practice in strong project management methods.  But traditional ways of doing project management are not very social. Today’s social tools allow us to break away form the traditional methods of delivering projects and incorporating new, more collaborative ones. Do you remember the infographic on The 5 Laws of Social Project Management. I showed you in my post, Solving the Project Manager’s Dilemma – Part 2?  I agree withLiquidPlanner‘s rules that collaboration, team participation benefits, transparency, personal autonomy, and realistic scheduling, will allow for new thinking when it comes to getting the job done. (Note: this is not a pitch for their software one way or the other, since I have not used it, but I like some of their ideas.)

The new self-directed and open social project team (made up of Millennials, GenXers, and maybe some of us dinosaurs (me)), is hungry for a social way to collectively participate on their projects and in the success of the business.  When you give people a deeper understanding of the process in which they are involved, a greater appreciation of the context in which they work (and make them part of creating it), and the opportunity to be directly engaged with the outcome, they will be more productive and more motivated.  All that, from a little socialization.

I am transforming my teams every day to work socially. Are you?  Tell me what changes you are making with your teams to go social.


Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian




(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)


  1. Results-Only Work Environment is a management strategy where employees are evaluated on performance, not presence. In a ROWE, people focus on results and only results – increasing the organization’s performance while creating the right climate for people to manage all the demands in their lives . . . including work.
  2. Accelerate the Flow of Work with Social Project Management, CIO White Paper by VMWare

3 Steps To Get Your Team Social


Image Courtesy of

People are suffering from the Project Manager‘s Social Dilemma.  (See Part 1 and Part 2 on Solving the PM’s Social Dilemma in previous posts).  This last week I started talking to people, both in and outside IBM, to understand if, and how, they are using Social Project Management and the issues around its adoption on their projects.  I was encouraged by the great interest in the topic but I was not surprised by the lack of actual practice going on.

I received solid validation from people for the three shifts that I have been talking about for adoption of a social way of working:

  • making project processes more transparent, open, and collaborative
  • leading the shift and challenging traditional work patterns and mind-sets, and
  • accepting that change takes time.

As I was compiling the feedback I got from PMs, Consultants, Marketeers and Social Evangelists, I started to see 3 clear steps to get teams into more of a social way of working :

Start Small

Consider using social technologies with your team to collaborate on proposals, share agendas, publish meeting minutes, share work products, or share task status. Just pick one or two things that you can move to an open platform like Connections until people are comfortable. Sometimes a limited rollout is the best way to allow others to start to see the benefits and help you strengthen your business case for further adoption. A grassroots attitude can be the main catalyst for adoption and sustained usage (Bughin, J. (2008). The Rise of Enterprise 2.0. Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice, pages 251-259).  (Note:  I want to thank Chris Cooper, IBM, for some great thoughts on this.)

Emphasize the Business Value

If you do not have buy-in from the team, it just won’t work.  Introducing the use of social media is more about business results than about the use of a new technology. Your people want to understand the business value of the proposition (why should I do this and what is in it for me?). If you want to ensure that the adoption of social media on your project is successful, you need to show the business value to your team. For example, one of the main things that people are telling me about using social media on their projects is that it saves them time. Time is money and saved money is value. The Team needs to understand how these technologies, and the use of collaboration, are going to enhance the ability for them to carry out their daily tasks quicker and with more support.

Because ensuring buy-in may require you to find new ways to speak and show the benefits of social media in the context of each person’s business results, using stories about the benefits that other projects have achieved is an excellent way to get there.

COLLAB WORDLEEmbrace Collaboration

Traditional project management tools may no longer work in a collaborative environment. You need to be ready to challenge the old way of doing things.  Collaboration requires an open and transparent forum with user-generated content.  Bill Kirst, of IBM, called it ‘working out loud.’  In this new social team environment every team member is expected to participate and find their digital voice.  Each team player becomes more autonomous and more engaged in the conversation of the project. “We develop a sense of “knowing” amongst the project team, and we can focus more of our time on getting the work done, and less time performing work about work.” (The Project Wall, Social Project Management – Narrating the project as it happens.By embracing project collaboration, you can not only optimize the power of your team, but you can extend it exponentially through the knowledge network of the enterprise.

Tell me your adoption stories?  What are you doing to transform the way you work?


Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian

(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)

Solving the Project Manager’s Social Dilemma – Part 2

In Solving the Project Manager‘s Social Dilemma – Part 1, I talked about three shifts that I was making to solve the problem that many of us delivery people have of being so busy DOING, that there is no time to embrace social media.  I accepted that I had to change some of my business/management processes, especially as it related to collaboration and knowledge sharing, that I had to be open to new ways of communicating with my team and my stakeholders, and, finally, that I needed to accept that change takes time.

Making The Shift To Social

social-media11.  Be Business Social.  Think of your use of social media not as an extra task in your project,  but as a way to empower your team and get your work done in a more collaborative and integrated way.

Think how efficient you would be if you had an up-to-date stream of information regarding your project (or client situation); keeping you informed and aligned with your team in real-time.  Could you be a better manager if you knew your project status daily: including what was done today, what tasks were behind, and what the issues and  risks were? Think of the time you would save if problems were fixed while you were sleeping. How expedient it would be to wake up to suggestions from experts, maybe in your company maybe outside, solving a tricky issue that has been stumping the team for days. This is what can happen when you work collaboratively and in the open.  This is working social. And, this is the basis of Social Project Management.

Different than the concept called, PROJECT MANAGEMENT 2.0 (which focuses on the collaboration of the project team among themselves using social media), SOCIAL PROJECT MANAGEMENT sees teams as part of a larger organization (enterprise), and through leveraging the collective intelligence of the organization, the limitations of the project team are removed, and the collective knowledge of the organization comes to bear on solutions. (See the Infographic at the bottom of this post for the 5 Laws of Social Project Management.)

The benefit to me of using Social Project Management is more time to focus on priorities, more up-to-date project status, and a supportive and integrated use of the collective knowledge of my company to solve problems.

I am not advocating getting rid of good project management principles, on the contrary, things like strong scheduling and time management techniques are still critical, but open communications, can reduce significant meeting and status reporting time, can showcase issues and focus on resolutions with the power of the collective enterprise behind you, and can bring to a project team, an awareness, and engagement, that has been lacking since the days of collocation.

The benefit of social communications for your projects comes from what social scientists call “ambient awareness.‘   When you, and your team, are getting constant communication feeds (ambient updates) of short status messages, like you see on Tweeter or Facebook, you are able to quickly assess the important information, throw out the not important, and rather than overload your brain (as many of us fear), it is actually creating greater understanding of subject matter.  And, unlike email, you don’t have to open or respond to anything.

Social Business software creates context specific ambient awareness, which because of the broad set of information provided to the team makes the work visible in “surprisingly sophisticated” ways.” (New York Times, Brave New World of Digital Intimacy).  You can look down a full-page of little status’, and read some, and skip others.  In a short time of actively reading your project stream, you could not only have a very comprehensive idea of what is going on, but you have the ability for real-time active participation by others, solving business issues on the fly.”

Think about all the time you could save if you could have fewer status meetings?  If your teams were keeping you updated as things happened?  Teams are reporting great efficiencies through leveraging micro-blogging status updates on mediums like Twitter or IBM Connections. “We need far fewer status reporting sessions, because everyone is being made aware of things as they happen. We develop a sense of “knowing” amongst the project team, and we can focus more of our time on getting the work done, and less time performing work about work.” (The Project Wall, Social Project Management – Narrating the project as it happens.)

Social Business is simply about doing business in a different way.  I think it is critical that project leaders start adapting the good stuff that we are learning from social business and create a best of bread for ourselves.  I know I am.     .

2.  Be Personally Social.  Once you have started becoming social every day on your projects, adding an insightful comment or two on your personal status (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), or commenting on someone’s post from your own expertise, will become second nature; you will already be online, communicating, and being social.  You digital eminence will rise from there.

To solve the Project Manager’s Social Dilemma – take the leap and start moving your team and your projects into the future with social communications.


Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian

(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)


Solving the Project Manager’s Social Dilemma – Part 1


Correct me if you disagree, but I think that people like me, that are responsible for the overall delivery of a project or program or portfolio: Project Managers, Program Managers, Project Executives, Engineers, Delivery Consultants (what ever the title), responsible for delivering on the stuff that our companies sell, are so busy DOING, that we don’t have time to breathe, no less to be social.  At least that is what I thought. I didn’t want to be on this computer one more minute after my already endless work day.  I figured that to be social meant added hours on the computer on top of my existing project load.  I am here to tell you it doesn’t.

I was chatting online with my friend/colleague Chrys last night (at about 10:30 PM – because who has time for a social chat before then?), doing my usual advocacy and coaching to get people to harness their social influence, when she said ‘I really would love to do more in the social space but, as you can see, it is late and I am still working on this really demanding project.  I just don’t have the time.”

That is when it dawn on me that we have a PROJECT MANAGER’S SOCIAL DILEMMA.  How do you find the time to start using social media, when you are exhausted, and you don’t really see how it is going to help you deliver the goods at the end of the day?

I think that delivery people, more and more, are starting to understand that there is something ‘hot’ going on called ‘social business,’  but project leaders are so busy working, that they are do not seeing how they fit in it, and how they fit it in.

How To Solve the Project Manager’s Social Dilemma

After much research, and 30+ years of personal experience, I realized that if I did not make the shift from traditional project communications methodologies and out dated team communications strategies, I was going to fall behind in the increasingly networked society of 2013.  But I just could not figure out where I was going to get the extra hours in the day (see my blog on finding the 25th hour).

The answer was to swap how I did things, so as not to add more tasks, requiring more time, but to actually streamline my communications, on my projects, with my teams, and ultimately, gain time to focus on more productive tasks, and of course, on my own social presence. It isn’t in addition to my job, it is my job.

First, I needed to accept that my business/management processes must be more collaborative, innovative, and open.  Which made perfect sense for management of my geographical disbursed, virtual teams, and brought me inline with the organization strategy that was leveraging social platforms in all lines of business.

Secondarily, I needed to accept that the change I needed to make was less about the tools that I used to manage my projects and more about the mind-set of open knowledge sharing, collaboration, and communications, both in and outside my teams.  Sometimes I think I get stuck in the tools I know (email for example) because, like most PMs, I use what I know works, versus leaping into a more collaborative conversation like with IBM Connections.  I wish I could be more like Luis Suarez, who is successfully living and working without email.  But alas, this takes time.

So, thirdly, I needed to accept the fact that adoption takes time (I am not very good at waiting), but that once I got used to this new paradigm, I would not only have more time in my day, but a new ambient awareness of my project and team, similar to the days of collocation, and with the added benefit of  integration through social networking with my total enterprise.

These three social shifts in how I manage my projects and my teams: make my project processes more collaborative, shift my mind-set to allow for wider communications, and accept that change does not happen over night, are a solid start toward solving my Project Manager’s Social Dilemma.

Do you have a Social Dilemma?

Are you trying to figure out what to swap, to get more time, or how to get your team on board with social media?

Part 2 will focus on Making The Shift To Social.  Make sure to come back now.


Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian

(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)