Monthly Archives: July 2011

The importance of trust in collaboration

This post on HBR claims that the most important thing that enables collaboration is trust. Seems like a no-brainer. However, many companies when developing a plan for collaboration approach it with an high level of distrust of their employees. Many companies spend significant amounts of time trying to develop controls, moderation paths, and responses to imaginary misuses of social collaboration tools. However, what is found again and again is that, for the most part, people act professionally on professional social networks, just as much as they act unprofessionally on networks like Facebook.

Companies that establish social networking platforms need to trust their employees, both to do the right thing on the platform, and to refrain from doing the wrong thing. Giving users many reasons to use the platform in the right way is one step toward establishing the desired behavior on the platform. Rather than asking users to figure out how the technology should be used, giving them a set of structured reasons to use the technology, such as social project collaboration, social resource allocation, social issue management, etc., helps to establish the habit of using the platform for business reasons, rather than for exchanging recipes.

Companies hoping to gain significant returns for their social investment should choose a good entry point for social, such as social project management, and should rely on usage policies rather than monitoring techniques for ensuring proper use of social technologies. Just as wikipedia monitors problem posters very well, the social community of the company will monitor and report any issues within the firewall.

Trust your corporate social network, integrate it with business processes, provide them with structural guidance, and get out of the way. It will grow in ways you could never plan for.

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The Changing Role of the Social Project Manager – Part 2

We began our discussion of the changing role of the project manager in part one of this post; we want to develop that more fully in this post.

Project Managers in the social business world should see themselves (and be seen by management) as key social facilitators of the company. While social connections are made within social networks organically, meaningful social connections are made in order to complete work. We have spoken at length in previous posts (here, here, and here) about the need for social networking technologies to provide reasons for people to use them through the establishment of business-context driven structures. However, even with the social business network in place, even with business-context driven structures in place, connections are made to solve real business problems, and the people often tasked with solving real, wicked business problems are project managers, leading projects.

Project Management is often seen as “anti-social” –  project managers have historically been viewed as very central members of the social network, responsible for pulling together the unique and diverse set of resources required, and responsible for controlling/managing those resources to complete the project objectives. While this doesn’t sound especially social, it is still the norm in most project-driven companies that the project manager acts in this fashion.

Emergent collaboration is often seen as “out of control” – emergent collaboration tools have historically cut out many of the necessary control mechanisms that project managers rely upon to both understand the status of their “business”, and to report on that status to others. While emergent collaboration has been extremely successful in tying together distributed project teams, it has often caused headaches for project managers who need to be able to respond with no notice to outside stakeholders. Emergent, social collaboration is often perceived as a loss of control to project managers.

Social Project Management bridges this gap – As we discussed in part one of this post,the social project manager can no longer operate as a hierarchical commander. At the same time, she still needs control. Somehow, the social project manager needs to leverage the social network and the emergent collaboration made possible by it, while maintaining the control still necessary to ensure that the project is progressing toward its goals.

Social Project Management software provides the structure of rigorous project management at the fingertips of the project manager, while still allowing project team members to collaborate socially. Rather than managing “projects”, social project manager allows for the management of business “opportunities”. What we mean by that is that most project management software processes “start” after the project has been identified, and a team has been formed.

With social project management, as an opportunity or threat emerges from the business environment, collaboration can immediately begin to address the issue, and this collaboration can include the definition of the project goals, the formation of the team as the problem is defined, and the tasks necessary to complete the project goals.

The social project manager in this illustration can work through the social networking software to identify and attract resources by including them in the up front definition of the project and therefore achieving higher buy-in from these resources. Additionally, as key resources are identified in the formation of the team, they can mine their social network for additional resources as new needs emerge. Rather than being “order takers” for a completed project plan, these resources become stakeholders in the project that they have helped define.

In the meantime, the social project manager is able to utilize the project management functionality of the platform to manage the project with whatever level of rigor is required.

This short and simple example shows just one way in which the social project manager helps to facilitate social connections within the enterprise in order to address an emergent critical business problem.

While social networking has other, secondary benefits, such as allowing people to share information about personal events and affinity topics, business value is generated by social networking software when real business problems are solved in an efficient and effective manner, and social project management does just that.

And now a word from our sponsors:

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