A new term is emerging to describe the paradigm of social business interaction – narration. I really like this term, as it gives a little bit better mental picture of what goes on when using an enterprise social platform, or a social business application like ProjExec.
What happens in a consumer social environment like Facebook is that people “narrate” their lives. So, in a social business environment, workers can learn to “narrate” their work. In a previous post, we argued that social business applications help to make work “observable”, and more recently we’ve argued that a key benefit of social project management (and other social applications) is to “make the invisible, visible”.
For a moment, think about going through life with one of your senses missing. In these cases, humans’ other senses are heightened, either naturally via adaptation and increased development, or via utilizing additional, external tools (cane, hearing aid, etc.) to provide additional environmental feedback that is not provided due to the loss or reduction of a sense. More specifically, a person who is blind can be assisted by a “narrator” who can give them information about a new or modified environment. This is not to say that the blind person could not find information about the environment herself, but this information is greatly enriched by the presence of the narration.
In the same way, business processes, particularly knowledge workers’ processes are black boxes. From a certain point of view, businesses are “blind” to the current state of many of their processes. Knowledge processes are notoriously difficult to observe – so much so that identifying the current state of a knowledge process is almost impossible. In addition, distribute teams lose significant observability that comes from being collocated. However, social business changes both of these issues – IF the people executing the process “narrate” it as it happens.
In a project execution process, narration typically happens during status reporting meetings, by project managers chasing down people for updates, in daily stand up meetings, etc. In a social project management environment, this can happen via narration by individuals (and by the software itself) on the project activity stream. Instead of the team only having visibility at the point of a status meeting, instead of the business not being able to see the actual work that is happening “right now”, a narrated project provides the business with awareness of the project, in real time, as it happens.
Recently, I have had the opportunity to see several friends and acquaintances that I haven’t seen “in person” for a very long time (think more than 10 years). Some of these friends were also “Facebook friends” and some were not. While I was very excited to see each one of them, our “reunions” exhibited very different dynamics. For the friends who were NOT my Facebook friends, we shared stories about what had happened since the last time we’d seen each other, what our current jobs and lives were like, our pets, our kids’ achievements, etc. – basically what has been discussed at class or family reunions since the dawn of reunions. However, when speaking with the friends who are connected to me via Facebook, these conversations and discussions were interrupted repeatedly by “Yeah, I saw that on Facebook.” or “Yeah, I know.” Instead of recapping our lives, we talked about our future plans, and did so in a great deal more depth than in those encounters when we spent a lot of time discussing the past.
In a real sense, reunions are our opportunity to give status reports on our lives to those people who cannot observe it themselves. These status reports become much less necessary when we are providing a regular narration of our lives to our social network.
The same dynamic applies when our project teams narrate the work of a project. We need far fewer status reporting sessions, because everyone is being made aware of things as they happen. We develop a sense of “knowing” amongst the project team, and we can focus more of our time on getting the work done, and less time performing work about work.
So, give Social Project Management a try. Narrate your business processes. Become social every day, so that you can focus on the future, rather than the past.
As always, let us know what you think in the comments.
(This post was written by John Tripp, Social Project Management Evangelist at Trilog Group. Trilog Group is the maker of ProjExec, the social project management solution for the IBM Collaboration Platform environments. ProjExec is available for IBM Connections, IBM SmartCloud, IBM Lotus Quickr, and IBM Websphere Portal.)