Project Managers Beware! It can take less than a minute to kill your entire project

6 April 2015
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In a world where overnight fame or infamy can happen to anyone with a webcam and internet connection, more than ever project managers need to carefully design a communication and collaboration strategy that will positively impact their projects while preventing the damaging effects of a potential negative broadcasting of information that can instantly shut them down at a moments notice.  Social media can  be used as a powerful tool to help drive a project quickly to success. Leveraging Twitter-like functionality and social collaboration can help quickly move your project by instantly shoring up the necessary support from your stakeholders to quickly execute on what was planned.  Adversely, take those same tools and place them in the wrong hands and very quickly chaos will ensue where your project will join the unfortunate ranks of the many failed projects of the past.

To drive home this message further, take the infamous example of the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) social media fiasco in April 2014 in which they “innocently” reach out to their citizens with a tweeted friendly photo to  initiate a conversation with the community to share their images with the NYPD.  By the end of the day, their Twitter account was flooded with over 70,000 images of police brutality turning this PR campaign on its head. In this case, the power of social media demonstrated the catalytic effect it can have on spreading unwanted messages.  What many organizations fail to recognize, as easy it is for them to reach to their intended audience via social media, equal power is given to the recipients involved.  Unlike traditional media, which controls the message through a one-way push, the democratic nature of social media opens up an uncontrolled two-way conversation that can either quickly deliver brownie points, or as in the case of the NYPD deliver unwanted communication which can leave a permanent mark on your organization.

As social media tools become fully integrated into a project managers project collaboration strategy, guidelines is their usage needs to be defined. Although it is difficult to fully control the flow of information via social media,  here are some tactics that can be used to improve the results of these tools in your projects:

  1. Consistent messaging – it is key that when broadcasting updates or statuses to stakeholders that you deliver cohesive messages.  Delivering inconsistent information can result in confusion and losing credibility in how the project is managed.
  2. Be selective – Define what type of project information you will share with your stakeholders and develop a strategy on how it will be delivered. You are most likely to get  better communication among the team if you stick to information that does not lead to tangential conversations that can derail your project’s focus.  It’s always better to stick to “Facts” rather than “Opinions.”
  3. Timing is everything – As a project manager, you most likely have a general feeling of how things are progressing with the project.   Broadcasting an update during a tense period in the project may turn against you.  Avoid taking the reactive approach and strategically craft and send messages that will provide higher chances of positive feedback.
  4. Share in others success, not only yours – Social media by definition delivers  2 way conversations.  That being the case, focus on how others have positively contributed to the project.  This in turn, can create the positive buzz you are looking for.
  5. Create a positive dialogue – Initiate open questions that will pull the necessary information from your stakeholders to improve the project’s performance and ultimate success.  Crowd sourcing through social media can provide you with some very valuable information that can improve, or in many cases, save your project.

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