Published in “Project Times” website, March 2012
Click here for original article.

We have entered a new normal business environment – and we aren’t going back to the way it used to be!  Customers are demanding more for less, companies are hoarding cash and growing the top line is a continual struggle.  Ensuring project success is becoming more vital as projects are typically geared towards increasing profitability and/or sales revenues. What can project leaders do to stack the odds in their favor?  Leverage social networks.

According to Webster’s dictionary, a social network is a network of friends, colleagues, and other personal contacts.  The power of your social network can tip the scales on any project.  So, what are a few ways to leverage our social network to drive project success?  1) Create community.  2) Knowledge.  3) Publicity.

  1. Create community:  One of the most important aspects to whether a project team will succeed is whether the team is engaged.  Engaged teams deliver results!  In my experience in working with hundreds of project teams across multiple industries and globally, I’ve found that a key ingredient to engagement is creating community.  In essence, do your project team members believe they are making a difference and feel like they are a special member of the team?For example, most trade organizations have had declining membership and lackluster attendance at events in the last several years as members do not feel a special connection to the group.  However, in a few rare cases, the chapter (or subgroup) has developed a “family” feel where the members help each other and function more as a community.  In those cases, they are thriving, as people seem to be searching for places to connect.  Although communities can thrive without a computer present, several of the social media tools enhance the feeling of community as they enable 24-7 communication, instant feedback and companionship.
  2. Knowledge:  Another key to success in project management is execution excellence.  Undoubtedly, those who are better prepared and ahead of the curve as compared with the competition will thrive.  Social networks and social media are cornerstone to staying ahead of the curve.For example, we can utilize social networks of colleagues, customers, suppliers and our extended supply chain to find solutions to problems (project roadblocks), research products and services, uncover the latest trends and best practices, ask questions, obtain ideas for innovation, etc.  We can conduct surveys and polls; utilize Q&A, post videos, request customer and market feedback etc.  Twitter, Linked In, Facebook and YouTube can all be secret weapons of choice in the battle of knowledge.
  3. Publicity:  There are countless numbers of reasons to seek publicity.  Need a new project team member?  Want to entice customers?  Need to promote your project with senior leadership?  Want to create a buzz in the industry?  Create engagement with team members?  All of the above?How do we create a publicity buzz?  There are several options:  Tweet a milestone success.  Post an intranet update on your project team’s latest success.  Post a video of your new product’s features.  Chat with Facebook friends about your customers’ benefits.  Put an article in your company newsletter about your next milestone and key contributors.  Give an exceptional team member a Linked In testimonial.  Search for talent in a specialty group related to your project’s objective.  Post a picture of your team celebrating a success.  And don’t forget the tried but true – pick of the phone and thank your extended supply chain member for their contribution (and tweet a “thanks” too!).

We are just beginning to tap into the immense power of social networks.  Why not be on the leading edge instead of racing to catch up?   Speed matters in today’s new normal business environment.  If you can leverage your social network and social media to speed up project success, you’ll have the opportunity to leapfrog the competition.