A few years back, while studying for the PMP exam, I committed the formula for calculating communications paths to memory.
So, what's the big deal? Why is it so important? If you're in the Project Management (or leadership) field, you know all too well how important communications is. I used to call myself a project manager. I now prefer to use the term project leader. What's the difference? According to Warren Bennis and Dan Goldsmith (1997) there are 12 distinctions between managers and leaders.
- Managers administer; leaders innovate.
- Managers ask how and when; leaders ask what and why.
- Managers focus on systems; leaders focus on people.
- Managers do things right; leaders do the right things.
- Managers maintain; leaders develop.
- Managers rely on control; leaders inspire trust.
- Managers have short-term perspective; leaders have long-term perspective.
- Managers accept the status-quo; leaders challenge the status-quo.[*]
- Managers have an eye on the bottom line; leaders have an eye on the horizon.
- Managers imitate; leaders originate.
- Managers emulate the classic good soldier; leaders are their own person.
- Managers copy; leaders show originality.
In order to both innovate and do the right things, I listen and listen a LOT. (Some people listen; some wait to talk) I've watched executives and managers, who knew absolutely nothing about a subject, make uneducated decisions because they were too stubborn or proud to consult a subject matter expert (SME). Good leaders do not operate in a vacuum. They exchange ideas and information with people. Offer free information and it will come back to you tenfold. Listen to knowledgeable people and then make a more educated leadership decision.
Where does social media fit into the grand scheme of things? Old-school managers and executives who believe in the bureaucratic organization and status quo, tend to lean toward command-and-control or top-down management. That group is operating under the assumption people higher in the organizational chart know more. New-school leaders believe in social media. Why? It strips away all of the nonsense and connects people to people. They have real conversations as human beings. They educate and they listen with a freedom to connect at an exponential rate. They are not confined to the notion of an hierarchical organization.
My example is my current engagement, which I have been at for 13 months: Within my direct cross-functional organization chart, I have 28 contacts to interface with. There are no plans to increase the size of this group. [28(28-1)]/2 is 378 communication paths. Not too bad.
Turn now to option number two, social media like Twitter and Facebook. For arguments sake, I'll say I have 200 followers on Twitter with a growth rate of 10% a month. (I'm actually have 450+ and counting) Each Twitter Follower is a communications path.
[200(200-1)]/2 = 19,900 communication paths
After one month it would be projected to increase to 21,945 communication paths
Every Friday, people I follow on Twitter recommend others in the industry who I should consider following (#followfriday). Every week, I learn more about my craft and more importantly I get to form relationships with people all over the world. By bypassing the organizational structure to get my information, inbound communications is at a much higher velocity and is now flowing up through the organization.