The views expressed in this article are strictly those of Max Wideman.
The contents of the book under review are the copyright property of Peter Taylor.
Published here September 2017

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked
The Interesting Part | Downside | Summary

The Interesting Part

Now comes the really interesting part — Chapter 2 The Challenge of Being a Social Project Manager. What's the point, you may ask? Well, it's all about a new way of working on projects to enable a higher level of project team performance that enables a better product in a shorter time frame with consequent lower ultimate cost. Is that too good to be true? Indeed, it is possible. It just requires a different organizational approach that takes advantage of modern technology.

What follows is specifically targeted at the so-called knowledge-work product sectors that we like to refer to as "Intellect Projects", especially those that may be large and involve a number of stakeholders world wide. How do we know it can work? Because, believe it or not, the construction sector has been doing it for ages. It's called "fast-tracking".

In traditional projects, the project manager has ultimate authority and responsibility over the project work. This is an essential requirement for maintaining complete control. All detailed short-term plans, progress reports, quality control results, change requests, change orders, and the like must flow up to the project manager for approval or acknowledgement and from there be redistributed to those who need to know.

This list must also include completion of each activity so that the next actor can be notified to start their activity. Collectively, this routing of authority through the project manager most often accounts for significant loss of time. On a complex project, what if someone in the hierarchy misdirects activity completion information? What if the prior activity is completed early, or late, and the follow-on actor is not ready, or has got engaged in other work? Then an opportunity is lost for moving on more quickly.

In construction, the project site is the central pivot. Project managers can encourage the various actors to see for themselves the state of progress and hence be ready to start promptly, or even arrange to overlap their work for overall completion sooner. Hence, this approach in construction is given the name "fast-tracking".

In intellectual project work, lack of visibility of the state of the project is a problem. Hence, according to Peter Taylor, the social project manager's goals are:[15]

"To help increase their project team's performance by encouraging and enabling:

  • Collaboration, communication and commitment;
  • Transparent information sharing in a time efficient way;
  • Visibility of collective purpose;
  • Collective risk management;
  • Self-correcting communication;
  • Removal of burdensome bureaucracy and empowerment of the individual; and
  • Provision of the right level of enterprise governance."

Amen to all of that. The point is, all of this can now be accomplished by taking advantage of cloud-based computing to "house" the project, and personal cell phones for instant direct communication to the various project components regardless of the location of the contributions from around the world. This significantly reduces the time for overall product development.

The following graphics describe the improvement:

Figure 1: Impact of increasing team size on communication paths
Figure 1: Impact of increasing team size on communication paths[16]
Figure 2: Fragmented nature of project managed communications
Figure 2: Fragmented nature of project managed communications[17]
Figure 3: Design of peer-to-project self-managed communication
Figure 3: Design of peer-to-project self-managed communication[18]

In Figure 3, it will be seen that the project manager is now removed from the onerous secretarial-like task and responsibility of keeping the information flow going. Instead, the project manager can focus on building the product.

What We Liked  What We Liked

15. Ibid, p39
16. Ibid, p44
17. Ibid, p45
18. Ibid, p47
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