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The key to becoming a true social project manager – new book about decentralization and the future of project management

Published By Planview Blog

Peter Taylor, also known as The Lazy Project Manager, has been described as ‘the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’.

Besides leading the global project management office of Kronos Inc., a software company delivering workforce management solutions, Peter Taylor has published acclaimed books about project management like the international bestseller “The Lazy Project Manager”, and in the last four years alone held over 200 lectures around the world.

His new book “The Social Project Manager” explores the challenge of balancing team collaboration with control in a project-driven, digitalized world. We had a chat with Peter Taylor to find out more about the new book. And why he persists calling himself lazy.

What differentiates a social project manager from traditional project managers?

“I have found, over and over again, that project managers know what is expected of them, and they want to do a great job, and they want to remove the inefficient practices they have to work with each day. The common access to open information through collaborative ‘social’ tools allows for faster impediment removal and higher levels of inter-project activity to remove such inefficient practices.

Therefore a ‘social project manager’ is someone who both recognises this and embraces it for the greater good of the project.

The key to being a true social project manager is finding that right balance between centralized control (all projects need some degree of governance and control and planning) and the decentralized value of collaboration, communication and connectivity that the social tools can offer – for faster and better informed decisions, and greater project community involvement.”

Who are the ideal readers? Junior project managers that are just getting started or seasoned people that need new perspectives?

“Well I am going to say both, of course, but not because more people might buy the book but rather this is the future of project management.

The way we have all adopted social media in our personal lives, it is really is now core to our behaviour patterns and means of communicating, will for sure be replicated in our working lives and in project management this can have an extremely positive impact I believe, as long as we get it right.

Therefore all project managers need to understand the challenges and the opportunity, perhaps the younger project managers will ‘get’ this so much faster than the older ones, like myself, but there is no ignoring the fact that this will form a critical part of the future of project management.”

What three tips would you give a project manager who wants to adapt to, and make best use of, this new digital business landscape?

“In the book ‘The Social Project Manager’ I list 11 key tips to becoming a successful social project manager but if I had to pick three key ones they would be:

1. Your team can help you become a better social project manager. The key here is that success, social project management success that is, cannot come about purely from you the project manager. You can certainly offer up a vision of a more social world and you can most certainly describe the value that this would bring about for you, for the project and for the project team, as well as for your organisation. But, you cannot create a social project world as an individual. It just doesn’t work that way. You need to involve others and you team can, and must, help you become a better social project manager.

2. Communication, communication, communication – things change but they also stay the same for project managers it seems.To become or to remain an effective (and therefore successful) project manager the optimization of communication is key – the new social tools need to become your project tools and not to become a burden that actually impacts communication in a negative way but don’t let the tools dictate your communication behaviour but rather identify and use the tools in the most optimum way for your and your social project team. The key here is that there is so much potential in the ‘social’ world for a project manager but they much remain in control of the communication channels, they must understand the channels for communication and ensure that such communication meets the standards of ‘right information at the right time to the right person through the right means’. For a project manager to manage this in the modern social project world then they need to use the tools at their disposal in the most optimum way and don’t let the tools dictate your communication behaviour.

3. The social project manager will appreciate that social communication operates and exists at three levels, all interacting with each other and crossing boundaries – social means fewer boundaries after all – these are: Social around the project, Social about the project and Social within the project. Encouragement of all three levels of team interaction and contribution is the path to the most effective socialisation of a project. Social communication is vital to the success of a team and its project and the social project manager must be the central hub and protector of this flow of information. The key here is to understand that there is no threat, no loss of ‘management control, by allowing these three levels of interactive communication to take place. There is only benefit in doing so. Rather the active encouragement of all three levels of such team interaction and contribution is the true path to the most effective socialisation of a project, and of course success. You, as the project manager, must be at the heart of this, not as a blockage or governor but as a conduit and facilitator.”

Finally, you don’t seem particularly lazy. Quite the contrary. Why “Lazy Project Manager”?

“Thank you, and no, I feel I am actually very productive. I lead a Global PMO for a billion dollar software business with 200 project managers overseeing some 5,000 project per year, I speak around the world on all things ‘project management’, and I continue to write books, blogs and have my popular podcast ‘The Lazy Project Manager’. All that and a reasonable work/life balance of course.

When I talk of ‘Lazy’ I actually speak of something that I call ‘Productive Laziness’, which simply means ‘working smarter and not harder’, focusing on the critical things and prioritising my work efforts accordingly.

There is an excellent quote I use ‘Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something’ by Robert A. Heinlein.

The title of ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ comes from my first book which took a look at project management behaviour based on my own experiences and tried to show other project managers the risks of getting too involved in too much detail, not delegating to their teams and generally being ‘unproductive’.”

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