Stronger teams—and better deliverables—may start with getting social.
BY DEBORAH A. DELL, PMP
WHILE SOME MAY DISMISS IT as an annoyance or interruption to the workday, social media can function as an integral part of a project team's operations. Social media enables teams to better share experiences and lessons learned, to collaborate with virtual team members and to seek assistance on complex project tasks from a broader pool of people. Knowledge shared in this digital forum can be consolidated and archived into a digital repository, to be tapped when needed.
As project and program managers, we recognize that communication is at the core of everything we do. Social media not only allows for more communication. It also encourages quick, frequent exchanges that stoke team cohesion and ultimately make project goals more attainable and create client satisfaction.
FOLLOW THE LEADER
For a social media approach to take root with project teams, project and program managers must become social leaders.
The first step is to determine the set of tools that the project team will use. Ideally, these tools will be integrated into the communications plan for the team members to access right out of the gate. The difference between a robust, vibrant social platform and one that withers from disuse may stem in part from proper training. Make sure everyone on the team understands how to access, search and post to the site.
Once the tools are up and running, project managers can demonstrate their social skills to the project teams by:
■ Engaging in frequent, open digital conversations. If you expect team members to access and use the site daily, make it a point to post or respond to others’ posts daily.
■ Encouraging collaborative idea generation and problem solving. Set a strong example by answering questions with lessons learned from past projects or drawing from other industries.
■ Sharing project status and knowledge across geographical and business-line boundaries. Transparency should be a given within the project team.
■ Recognizing team members and project contributors via social channels.
Social media encourages quick, frequent exchanges that stoke team cohesion and ultimately make project goals more attainable and create client satisfaction.
MAP IT OUT
Of course, demonstrating the value of social media will only get project managers so far. To ensure team members have integrated these tools into their project work, project managers should take a systemic approach that extends beyond the project launch.
At the beginning, focus on establishing the project goals that can benefit from social media and communicating those goals with the team. Will this be where team members get status updates? Brainstorm ways to overcome challenges on complex deliverables? Pose questions to stakeholders?
While the project is underway, manage these social channels with the same rigor given to other types of communication. Answer questions in a timely manner, nudge reticent team members into offering solutions and ask for updates as needed.
The investment in social media is worth it when one considers that, once solidified, this approach can be reused and the assets and design shared across other projects and programs in the organization. Share social accomplishments with key stakeholders and share lessons learned from the project with other project or program leaders as appropriate. Perhaps most importantly, team members should be recognized not only for their project success, but also for their social participation. PM
Deborah (Debi) A. Dell, PMP, is the manager of the Project Management Center of Excellence at IBM, a PMI Global Executive Council member. She works from her home in Delray Beach, Florida, USA.
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