Tools of Communication in Project Management

To tell you the truth, I think Dennis and I are pretty much in agreement that Social Media is a great tool for supporting project management. But how boring is that if everyone agrees all the time. Soooo, let me see if I can stir the pot a little….

In his post Leadership and Collaboration are Needed, Too, Dennis stated:

Formal project management tools can serve as starting point for communications about who is supposed to do what, and when. The larger and more complex the project, the more important role communications plays — and the more inmportant formal tools are in order to keep track of the many different “moving parts” in a large project.

I think that for the most part formal tools are vestiges of a time when information was required to flow through formal structures. The formal toolset is just professional jargon that has developed and been codified over time. The purpose was to create a shorthand way to communicate between “knowledgeable” people, i.e. those that knew the language. It kept project managers from having to “re-invent the wheel” for every project (not to mention providing job security).

As the fundamental process by which we communicate changes, a broader variety of people are becoming involved in the project process, therefore we need to move away from jargon and inaccessible tools. Social Media based tool, because of their flexibility and ease of use, can be used to meet the communications needs of projects, without carrying the baggage of the more formal tools.

The gauntlet has been thrown.

Re-Imagine Project Management

The other day I was having a v-con (voice conversation) with Dennis McDonald, a well-known advocate of using social media tools to support project management activities. We were having a great conversation when we had the idea that we should take it online. So here is the initial post of what we hope will be an ongoing and dynamic o-con (online conversation) about Social Project Management.

My key points for today:

  • Most of the value of a project plan comes from creating the plan, not having the plan.
  • Project Management is fundamentally about communication.

I think General Patton said something like, make the plan and then throw it away. (I am sure that is nowhere near the actual quote, but it serves my purposes). The point is that the process of design or creation is the point where knowledge is formed. The artifact of the creation process, the plan, has little relative value, as compared to the knowledge that was created. The lesson here is to be inclusive of everyone that will be a stakeholder of the project when you are developing the plan. Those that just see the plan document after the fact will be way behind the curve.

Use social media to engage stakeholders while a project is in the formative stages.

Once a project is underway, the most important role of project management is to keep everyone coordinated, i.e. to facilitate communication. If you think about all of the gantt charts, and cost estimates, and dashboards used on a project, they all serve one purpose; to effectively communicate what is going on. If these tools do not accomplish this function they are useless. Social media again can play a key role, because at its heart social media is about communication.

In many instances, the effective use of social media as a PM tool can reduce or eliminate the need for many traditional tools.

So Dennis, what say you?