Social project management?

Social project management suggests that social media -- presumably wikis, blogs, and the like -- can enhance connectedness among project participants, thereby reducing the rate of project failures. Will it work?

Social project management

Joe Thornley blogs about an Enterprise 2.0 conference presentation, by Leisa Reichelt, that discusses "social project management." The premise centers on using social media -- presumably wikis, blogs, and the like -- to enhance connectedness among project participants, thereby reducing the rate of project failures.

Joe lists attributes of traditional projects:

  • Top down: an extensive hierarchy with information trickling down. But getting the information back up is difficult.
  • Gantt Charts: The bigger, the uglier, the better. Reichelt notes that these are enormously optimistic. How often do they have any resemblance to reality?
  • Many stakeholders: The project manager seeks out all of the stakeholders and the stakeholders put in as many requests as they possibly can. One problem of project management is that too often it seeks to satisfy stakeholders. This is different from satisfying end users.
  • Complex dependencies: Escalating demands leads to complexities which leads to delays.
  • Risk registers: !
  • Horizon & beyond timelines: Planning a project now that will be useful and realistic in 18 months. How often does this really work?
  • Expected failure: This kills team morale. But is it all too common.

He also describes smaller, social projects:

  • Small teams: a developer, a designer and a sweeper.
  • Made up of smart, motivated people.
  • Limited planning. Non-essential documentation and highly detailed specification are dispensed with. Sketching and agreement on fundamentals are the focus.
  • Minimal scope: Less is more. Build less.
  • Multi-skilled teams: Look for people with multi-disciplinary skills.
  • Fast pace: Speed is essential to produce results within a limited budget.
  • Rapid release: Take it out to the community quickly and ask them to participate in alpha and beta testing.
  • Feedback: End user feedback is sought to refine the product.
  • Responsiveness: Speed and close contact with users leads to quick reaction to feedback.
  • Iteration: Constant change.

Since projects fail primarily due to non-technical causes, any tools and methodologies that encourage better management and communication are bound to help. Still, as Joe correctly points out, the social project management approach breaks down on large projects.

Although social media offers no panacea to the problem of failed projects, managers should keep an open mind. Social media does show promise to substantively assist project management, although it's still too early in the lifecycle to know where the real benefits will emerge.

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