5 Reasons Why Project Managers Should Use Facebook

I would like to continue the discussion started by Richard Newton on the challenge of managing offshore suppliers and talk about facebook and how to use it to manage your projects. After delivering several projects with only virtual teams, I've learned that facebook can be quite a useful tool, which helps you build relationships and know more about your project team and how to manage it. In this article I will explain what I think on this subject and share 5 reasons why project managers should use facebook.

Virtual Teams - The Usual Setup

First, let's describe the term "virtual team". A typical scenario would be delivering a project with a team of people spread all over the globe, across multiple time-zones. For example, you have 10% of your team located in the same country as you (or office, if you are truly lucky) and the rest based in multiple countries such as: India, Philippines, Germany, Switzerland, UK, USA, Mexico, etc. You will never get the chance to meet most people for the duration of the project. Some you may never work with again once the project is complete.
Also, an important percentage of your team is not even employed by your company, as you have multiple companies, each delivering its own piece of the puzzle.

If this is similar to your reality, then you are managing a virtual project team and you should definitely read on.

Facebook As a Project Management Tool? Are You Crazy?

I realize many people have preconceived notions about facebook and believe it is a 'place where high school and university students go online to hangout, hook up, post drunken photos of themselves'. However, as Mitch Joel and many others point out, this is very far from the actual truth.

The reality is that 'Facebook continues to grow across all demographics and psychographics (from boomers to business people) as online social networking becomes one of the primary ways that people stay connected and communicate'.

Personally, I am a very active user and I believe facebook can be both business and project management tool. Let's see why.

Reason 1: Knowing How the Team Members Look Means Knowing their Personalities Better

For me, being able to associate the names & voices with the faces of my team members, makes a huge positive difference. Seeing how a person looks like gives additional information which an e-mail or phone conference would never be able to give. Their faces, the way people dress, what kind of pictures people post on facebook, they all give you a very good insight into their personality & cultural influences.

For example, if somebody posts mostly pictures which are very casual, from lots of social events like parties or barbecues, then you might want to be more casual in the work relationship you develop with that person. Making jokes from time to time with that person might help a lot more than just being very cold and professional.
If another team member posts mostly business friendly pictures and always looks sharp and elegant, then being casual with him/her in the project work might not deliver great results.

Paying attention to people's facebook profiles and this kind of details helps a project manager adapt the style more appropriately to the people with whom he/she is working with.

Reason 2: What Does your Team Love Doing?

Many people use facebook to share details about their passions, the things they truly love doing. You'll be able to find out what music they like, the sports they are truly passionate about, the books or movies they love, their obsession for certain gadgets, etc.

How does this help? In more ways than you might think:

  • You can discover that you share the same passions with one of your team members. You can use this to develop a stronger bond with him/her and, instead of being considered just the project manager, you might become friends with the person. And yes... this helps tremendously.
  • Knowing what people love doing can also help you in better splitting roles and responsibilities. Assigning a team member to work which he/she is passionate about, makes a huge difference.
  • You can see what the major differences between you and your team members are. They might like something you don't and, at the very least, you can use this information to avoid needless conflicts and disputes which would ruin the relationship. Even if this is a less positive scenario, it is likely to happen in a virtual team and, having this kind of information can help you avoid needless conflicts.

Reason 3: What Does your Team Do Outside & During Office Hours?

One thing people commonly do on facebook is share what they are doing outside work. They will talk about the concerts they attend, movies they see, their travels to foreign countries. Knowing this can help you in many ways.

First, you can use this information to connect with them and have more personal discussions, which helps build your relationship with them. In other cases you will find out what might be distracting them and not deliver the project work.

When it comes to work, people tend to complain about what they don't like about it. And knowing this can be of tremendous help. If a project team member complains about a project task assigned to him, you can use this information to help him/her out, assign it to somebody else, or just know that you might have it done later than scheduled and adapt your project plans accordingly.

The scenarios are endless, and using all this information helps a lot in managing the relationship with your team and how you adapt your project plans.

Reason 4: Learn About Big Events in your Team's Life

At work, many people do not share much about their personal life. This happens a lot more often in virtual teams. Sharing big personal news with a team you never met, is not that satisfying, so you might choose not to share it. For a project manager, knowing about big events in the life our his/her team members is very important.

Knowing about their birthdays and sending them a simple "Happy Birthday!" wish improves your relationship with them. If a team member is due to become a parent, it might mean you will soon have a problem resourcing your project. Marriages, engagements, tragic events, holidays - these are all things you want to know about. Both from a relationship perspective with your team and the professional responsibility you have for delivering your projects.

Reason 5: Facebook is More Personal

Any way you look at it, facebook is and always be more personal than e-mail and phone conferences. The simple act of interacting with your team on facebook helps you build a better, more trusting relationship. Talking with them about things not related to work, sharing movies recommendations,

If you have a facebook account, add the project team to your lists of friends. Do not put them on limited profile or limited viewing permissions and interact with them. It might seem too soft at first, but you will notice a difference.

You will know them better and, in return, they will deliver better results on the project. It is a win-win from both perspectives: personal and business.

PowerPoint Summary

What Do You Think? What is Your Experience?

Even though Facebook has its share of generational challenges, I really think it's a tool that should be used by every project manager, especially if he/she is working with lots of virtual teams.

Depending on your background and personality, my recommendation might seem common sense or a crazy idea. That's why I am really curious to know what you think. Do you believe in the utility of facebook as a project management tool which helps build better relationships with your team?

Also, don't hesitate to help enrich our list of reasons to use facebook and tell us how you have used a social network in your project management work or if you are considering to do so. Would love to hear how would you do it.

Related content:

Tips for Managing Offshore Suppliers
How to Manage Management Consultants
Why Project Managers Are More Likely to Become Linchpins

Comments

Hi,

I agree with this because I have personally found this useful in understanding the personal interest of my collegues. Most of the projects are onsite-offshore model and different people working on the same project are located at different geographical locations. So it is very much impossible for all the team members of the same project to physically meetup. Also project team members don't share their personal interests during working hours. This is where social networking sites like facebook comes into use. Project team members can atleast meet virtually. They can share their personal interests through these social networking sites when they are not at work. This will help them to come more closer and understand their likes and dislikes.

Thanks for the comment Rakesh. We are curios to know what our readers think, so don't hesitate to leave comments on any of our posts.

I'm still skeptical of using facebook for any work-related purposes

We are not saying to use it for "work" in the true sense of the word. We are saying use it to build relationships with the people you work with. And that's a bit different.
Also, it doesn't have to be facebook. It can be any other social networking tool which is popular with your team members.

Good points to think about.

Here are my thoughts:

1. Facebook PAGES to manage projects might be a better way to implement. It allows a certain degree of flexibility without mucking up personal Facebook accounts.

2. I for one would not allow my work related relationships join me on Facebook without putting rules in place. I do not want them to know too much about my personal life without actually being true friends. I for one actually use Facebook only for my dearest friends and family. It's way too much information to allow work to be involved. Work is work. However, allowing them to see some pictures, ok. BUT only the ones I deem safe for work consumption. Example, had a stalker from work seek me out in Facebook. In this day/age women especially need to be careful how much information sharing happens.

3. There are better tools out there to manage projects as a whole. Allowing full collaboration and information sharing with social aspects without TMI.

Basecamp
activeCollab
Huddle

To name just a few....

But your idea has merit as well and appreciate the suggestion

Meegan

I must admit, i was reluctant about facebook when I first heard about it, but I can't imagine running a business without using it these days. Any social network this size can and should be used to develop your business, improve your customer service, make yourself known and finding new clients, recruit future employees or find a job if you don't have one yet. There are countless advantages you can get by using this network, you just have to set your goals and go for it.

Networking means a lot for most of business people this days. Facebook can be used as a igh availability tool to keep closer possible partners or clients. I agree, I think may be of excellent use for multinational companies. Strengthen the ties of all branches.

- nice2 - sales1