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This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Communication and Learning in Projects -- A couple days ago, I ran a list of links on communication and collaboration. Today brings a thread that winds it's way from Phil Windley to Jonathon Peterson to Vattekkat Babu and back to Peterson on the subject of using weblogs in IT and/or Project Management. A few bits along the way got my attention. From Windley...
"One of the chief uses of blogs in an IT organization is narrating your work. How valuable is it for you to narrate your work. How valuable is it for you to read what others are writing?"
Back when I was getting a paycheck from AT&T/Bell Labs, a number of the "members of technical staff" I came across carried around little bound project notebooks -- stamped "Property of AT&T." Some didn't, but those that did maintained both CYA notes as well as real valuable bits and pieces of learning they stumbled on in the course of their projects. I wonder how those paper-based records got used. Lessons learned are hard enough to identify in some organizations. It's even harder to take advantage of them without some easy to use, easy to access knowledge management system. Replace those little bound notebooks with blogs and search engines, and there's at least a chance of doing so. Peterson takes this idea and runs with it, triggering Babu to say...
"A big difference blogging has with traditional PM status reporting is that bloggers want as many people as possible to read what they write, because they are proud of what they are and what they do. Traditional status reporting may be thought of as people with powers ask questions, but no one else. So, for organizations that preach flat structure and not hierarchies, I believe blogs are the way to go. Sure, the information might be unstructured. This is not a difficult problem to solve with proper categorization...The real beauty of blogging for PM is that it evolves. Which means, it supports the simple mind-set of Observe, Analyze, Adjust."
While I'm not sure that status reporting is the real utility for weblogs (project and promise health can be easily understood with simple buffer management techniques -- without the rocket science calcuations and graphs of EV), issues of risk and opportunity identification are another story. Sharing of learnings, surprises and mistakes, is what collaboration for successful project work requires -- not just within a particular team, but across programs and portfolios that might benefit. The first is about exploiting immediate opportunities. The latter is about assuring the future does not have to depend on relearning the same lessons.

The final gem in this thread of weblogs is from Peterson, and it touches directly on the issue of learning -- not about projects but about processes used to deliver them...
"Blogs (and other collaborative workspace tools) are going to come from outside big, traditional IT, where the mechanisms and the layers of middle management that support them are too embedded to change quickly. It is ironic is that at the same time that companies react to the money wasted by neophyte project managers by insisting on PMI certification, the tools and practices needed to deliver the next generation of intra-enterprise applications in a web-services environment are evolving at an exponential rate under the radar of corporate America."
Whether ground level tools like weblogs or higher flying next generation affronts to the "generally accepted practices" endorsed and promoted by the PMI (affronts such as Critical Chain-based PM and/or Agile work methods) have a significant impact on project effectiveness and efficiency is not in question. They are and they will, whether the corporate gate keepers and professional certifiers are aware or not. It would be easier if they didn't feel so threatened, but that is sometimes the nature of change.

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