Ideals for Project Information

Ideals for Project Information

I was reading an article* in Phi Beta Kappa’s periodical, The Key Reporter, the other day (I borrowed it from somebody smart), and happened across an article that mentioned “two great dreams that are shaping the future of scholarship.”

The dreams are related to the digital information culture and infrastructure that’s been growing around us since the creation of ARPANET. I think they have applicability not only to scholarship, but to project management as well. (Let’s hope so, or I’m not going to have anything to post.) The dreams are:

1.    Universal access to knowledge. This is the idea that necessary (and perhaps unnecessary) information is accessible to anyone who wants it.
2.    A self-correcting knowledge base. This is the idea that a tidbit of knowledge hanging out in the ether can be continually tweaked by users so it gets nearer and nearer to perfection. Think Wikipedia.

Since communication is 90% of the project manager’s job, we’d do well to keep these ideals in mind as we practice our craft, keeping in mind, of course, the demands of our discipline and the limitations of the individual environments in which we toil.

Universal access to project information can be achieved by any number of means—wikis, websites, SharePoint sites and other types of repositories. These are knowledge troves people can dip into at will, hopefully finding what they need to make their appropriate contribution to the project. In many environments, the trick here ismaccess control; it’s not necessarily appropriate for everyone to see everything. Still, we can start with the ideal of universal access and then whittle it as dictated by reality.

Self-correction is trickier still than universal access. Applying the brain power of your team and organization to inputs and outputs should often improve them, but controls would be needed to prevent chaos. For example, the last thing you want is somebody inserting a change in the project without consulting anybody else.

What might be better is judicious use of social media to improve the change process. For example, changes might be submitted on a discussion board to the project team and stakeholders, so improvements from the organization at large can be made before the change control board sees the suggestion. Changes would be cleaner when presented to the CCB and some might be eliminated before they get there (or the process could uncover additional changes).

True, there’s nearly always a gap between ideals like universal access and self-correction and the soggy details of reality, but that shouldn’t keep us from aiming towards them. The more we’re influenced by high-minded ideals, the better our real-world work will be.

* “What Are Books Good For?” by William Germano, The Key Reporter, Volume 75, Number 4, Winter 2010. Mr. Germano is dean of humanities and social sciences at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

No Comments

Post A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.