What Is Social Project Management?
By Kelly Kazimer
Is social just a fad or here to stay? And what does it have to do with projects…
As with all new terminology, whether catch-phrase or otherwise, the concept behind the wording needs to be defined and understood before it’s possible to engage in a real, meaningful dialogue about it. That’s why we tend to see the same trend with every innovation. New ideas, perhaps not yet well-articulated, generate some early discussions. Those initial discussions begin propagating a term or phrase that represents the innovation. This drives curiosity, which drives more discussion and often the repetition of the new terminology, regardless of how well it’s defined or understood. Generally the broader discussion begins to peak with some back-and-forth debate of the meaning behind the words, before eventually reaching a consensus (on either a common definition, or another new terminology).
This is what I’ve found to be the case with the phrase “social project management”. Many bloggers and subject matter experts have a tendency to define the concept solely in terms of the project management software or tools that support it, stateless of any actual business leadership, processes, or approach. Others attempt to define it within the context of consumer social media communications, giving the impression that socializing project management is the equivalent of opening up internal business initiatives to some sort of crowdsourced public input.
The phrase social project management has, to my knowledge, only existed for the past few years. And it most certainly erupted from the roots of web 2.0 software and technology enablers. However, proponents of social project management (myself included) see it as a methodological shift within the project management discipline. From that perspective, social project management takes on a new conceptual definition.
Traditional (historical?) project management embraces a militant-like paradigm. Central command and control processes, driven from the top and dictated to the project resources below. All of whom are stratified on a hierarchical project organizational chart in tidy little boxes, clearly delineating not only who reports to whom, but by extension of the environment, who has the most access to the most information. As with all authoritarian structures, a traditionally managed project requires significant rigor, strict communication channels, and complex processes and bureaucracy, which by necessity, require significant overhead administration.
Enter social project management. Emerging from early implementations of Project Management 2.0, Social Project Management, as an approach, is characterized by the democratization of the project environment. Instead of managing and controlling, the project manager takes on an the important, but less bureaucratic, role of project leader. Social PMs advocate open communications among project participants over formalized communications through pre-defined channels. Social projects stress and promote collaboration as a de facto work paradigm, interacting proactively to support overreaching project goals and outcomes. Information flows freely and frequently on a social project, with consumption limited only by availability.
Unlike Project Management 2.0, Social Project Management is implemented at an organizational level, extending collaboration and communication channels across all projects, to prevent information silos and take advantage of the concept of ambient awareness (more on this in a future article). Early project management 2.0 software misunderstood the power of collective collaboration, and often implemented the “collaboration” tools at an individual project level. Which, I suppose, works well within organizations that never have a resource involved in more than one project at a time. For the rest us, it was largely useless and often drove us back to our ineffective but learned behaviours - communicating via email, voicemail, meetings, or not at all. The other challenge that tripped up PM 2.0 was the tendency to offer collaboration capabilities only, in lieu of any project management support tools. Here’s an activity stream, or wiki, or document storage space and that’s your project software. Even small projects need guidance, scheduling, and oversight. Have you ever set a personal goal without figuring out the steps you need to achieve along the way to reach that goal? Doesn’t work very well.
So what is social project management? It’s the amalgamation of tried and true project management techniques like schedule management, milestone setting, task dependencies, and issue and risk analysis, but applied within a collaborative and democratized project environment. Social project management empowers teams and wraps them with these techniques, providing true visibility and distributed ownership and investment among all project participants, regardless of role.
So tell me… how social are your projects?
No comments yet.