The Future of Project Management is “Social” – Here’s Why …

I recently spent some time on the East Coast with my family. My father and I watched a movie together that resonated with us both over the course of a week. It kept coming up in conversation and I couldnt help but to continue thinking about it.  A profound scene in the movie kept playing over and over in my head and ultimately was the inspiration for this post.

To start, here’s the scene in the movie … and you should watch this before you read any further.


One of the most touching stories of pursuing passion and greatness is in the 2004 movie, “The Aviator.”

Howard Hughes, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is obsessed with developing and flying the fastest aircraft ever, making the biggest movies ever, and becoming the richest man in the world. 

“When I grow up, I’m gonna fly the fastest planes ever built, make the biggest movies ever, and be richest man in the world.”

In the end, Hughes accomplishes all what he set out to do.

His determination and passion in the face of increasing paranoia due to OCD is brought out throughout the movie.

As the movie ends, Hughes repeats the phrase, “the way of the future” over and over as the screen cuts to black.

Now, I certainly don’t intend to exploit a mental illness, or OCD for that matter. But there is a lot to learn about paying attention to “the little details.”

Like Hughes, and maybe someone more of us can relate to, Steve Jobs is also quite famous for being overly obsessive about the little things that make a huge difference.


Ideas are a “dime-a-dozen” anymore

For entrepreneurs and startups, The Aviator forms a classic backdrop of an entrepreneurial pioneer who envisioned “the way of the future” and pursued it with passion in order to realize his goals. 

The Howard Hughes story can teach us a lot about what being a real entrepreneur is all about.

For Howard, doing what he set out to do was top of mind. He is a classic example of an entrepreneur who loved what he did and did what he loved.

The Internet today has made it easy for almost anyone with an idea to start a new and exciting business.

However, ideas are a dime-a-dozen anymore … everyone has them, and many of them. 

It takes real passion and a determination to stay on course to keep that flame burning and the idea growing.


Real Entrepreneurs ‘Make It Happen’

One modern-day Howard Hughes, in my mind, who exhibits the same passion and determination, is Steve Case, the co-founder of AOL.

When Mr. Case started his business, the Internet as we know it, did not exist. Only about 3% of the people in the country had an Internet connection.  What drove his investment was the belief that there is really a big idea behind the Internet.

When he started with AOL in 1985, it was still the early days of the Internet. His story truly stands out when you consider the different number of companies, with enough resources, who had tried interactive services with consumers, but people just weren’t embracing it. It was expensive, and people simply didn’t have the technology that was necessary for widespread adoption.

It would take a decade before the idea grew. Case said:

“The big ideas, like AOL, it took us a decade before we really got going and hit our stride,” he notes. “So you’ve got to be in it to win it over the long run and not just have a quickie, built-to-flip kind of mentality.”

The lesson?

You have to be passionate, love people, and persevere in the idea.

This is especially true if you are trying to execute a big idea, one that could essentially change the world. And this is the essence behind the three Ps, as Mr. Case covered in his commencement address at the University of North Carolina on May 12, 2013.


Steve Case’s 3 Ps To Success

  1. People. A leader must be able to recognize and attract individuals with the right abilities for the job … and then align them around the qualities of the organization. These are the people that strengthen the culture of the organization and execute the imagination, creativity, and learning to make headway with the organization.
  2. Passion. “You can’t fake it,” Case said. A leader needs to believe in the cause and work tirelessly to achieve the organization’s goals. “With AOL, we were on a mission and nothing could stop us.” It’s this kind of passion you need to get others to buy into the idea.
  3. Perseverance. “Stick with it,” Case said. Don’t let yourself get discouraged and don’t let anything stop you. “Big ideas take longer and usually involve bigger risks, but are normally worth it.” It took AOL nine years to hit 1 million customers, Case said, but by the time the next nine years came around, they were at 25 million.

According to Case, the secret sauce that has driven American all along is entrepreneurship. This is the story of America, and this is what drives the economy and jobs. Ultimately though, it’s entrepreneurs helping other entrepreneurs, and such ecosystems are the backbone to economic prosperity.

If you have seen “The Aviator,” you can apply the 3Ps to just about everything Howard Huges did with his businesses. His passion for changing the world shows through profoundly, he was on a mission, and there was nothing that could stop him. Competition drove him, the people who doubted him drove him even more, and with this passion, he got people to buy into his ideas, even if they were skeptical in the beginning. And even in the face of failure — when his movies didnt have that punch he was looking for, or when he crashed the test planes — he stuck with it, often times starting over from scratch.

But ultimately, it was the people he surrounded himself with, the people that believed in him enough to “buy-in” to his idea and see his vision that brought his ideas to life. It was the people that managed the projects, the day-to-day operations, the little details, the people that “made it happen.”

And that’s where I believe we can add to Cases 3Ps … The 4th P — Project Management.


The 4th P: “Project Management”

In order for small, medium-sized, and large organizations to succeed, they need to adopt innovation and creativity. These are the engines of growth … and project management ensures both of these things.

Project management has been defined as an action plan that takes advantage of every technique and strategy for a project’s successful completion. In other words, when you plan, organize, lead, and control human and physical resources to achieve your project goals as efficiently and effectively as possible, you are undertaking project management.

With the ultimate goal of minimizing failure and loss, the current state of entrepreneurship has demanded new techniques, methods, and processes to do that.

Ultimately, we have seen the emergence of social project management, and its impact on organizations has been phenomenal.

Today, people want autonomy over all of their resources more than anything else. In order to keep employees motivated, you need to give autonomy over their time, tasks, techniques, and team. 

Classic project management, where there is limited collaboration, little transparency in the end goals, autonomy, and realistic scheduling just doesn’t cut it anymore.


The Future of Project Management is “Social”

Social project management uses the social networking or social collaboration paradigm to solve the classic project management crisis that I just highlighted.  While most of the best practices in the old model have been embraced in the new “social” model, it takes it a notch higher by incorporating open collaboration and tranceparency within teams.

At the core, social project management introduces the collaboration aspect that did not exist before. This, however, should not be confused with simple social features found on social networks. It takes a careful and calculated implementation of these social features that help in achieving a project’s goals, deliverables, and purposes.  Any of such features are linked to the formal project schedule, which ensures project management techniques are followed, while offering seamless collaboration within project teams.

Social project management has also shifted the value benefit from managers to team members.

Every participant in a project benefits from such participation through real engagement and access to tools, people, and resources.

The classic model restricted collaboration, usually providing access only to managers and decision makers, leaving out team members who are crucial to a project’s success.


The days, they are a changin’.

If you are looking to maximize transparency within projects and deliver autonomy for team members, a social project management software will help you do that.

Transparency prevents you from spreading your employees too thin, and gives your people maximum exposure to what is going on, who is doing what, and the obstacles your team is trying to find solutions for.

They have a platform for communicating and connecting ideas.  This creates and fosters motivation, engagement and innovation. 

This transparency can even be extended to include clients, partners, and other third parties who were traditionally not part of the equation. As you can imagine, bringing in more collaboration is the smart thing to do.

Undoubtedly, delivering autonomy … where team members have a sense of ownership, control data and outcomes, and get a hands-on approach throughout the lifetime of a project is the biggest benefit itself.

When you trust people to make smart decisions, more often than not, they will make smart decisions.

Social project management software goes even further and keeps a public audit trail for accountability and a place to look back into the history of a project, if in fact you’d need to take a few steps back or even start over.

Our work environments are changing and evolving, and the tools we use should evolve too … to fit in the way we work.

Social project management is one way to ensure that you can keep up and compete effectively with others in your industry or space.

It’s the smart thing to do. And as Howard Hughes said, “It’s the way of the future.”


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Written by

Tim Eisenhauer is a co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.


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