Project network as a social network
Or maybe the subject shouild read "project network as a conversation." Patti Anklam posts an interesting comment about project networks in Project Team Analysis and SNA, which references an article by Dennis Smith, Network links go well beyond straight lines. To quote Patti:
... Dennis's insight, expressed well in the article, is that the links between tasks on a project chart often represent [the need for] multiple conversations, iterations between two people completing a hand-off of one's completed work to the other. As he says, "...microlevel interactions are left for those two people to work out and simplified to a single line in the project plan."
We so often think about these branching and interconnected networks as a fancy list of tasks. Built well, they represent interdependencies among people and the tasks. But the insight above really gets at the people nature of projects. There aren't hard cutoffs between the end of one task and the beginning of another. The line on the gantt chart implies a conversation, and depending on the complexity of the tasks, the amount of time people are working on the "line" between the two tasks could be significant. Most projects are not assembly lines.
There is also the point that any project plan is only an educated guess at how the project will proceed, and Dennis Smith works with that theme as well. Wouldn't it be fun to acknowledge that some tasks within the project require more "networking" than others -- more interactions with people outside of the formal people assigned to the activity. Has anyone mapped a social network against a project network? Is it possible to come up with a view that would make sense?
Smith's summary tells us to get around the lie (the inability of a gantt chart to represent how projects really flow), we need to communicate early and often.
Good communications between team members, sponsors, customers, and the leader is the best incremental investment you can make. With good solid communication rules and well-built working relationships at the person-to-person level, you may even make the biggest project lie go away. The biggest lie? "We understand everything that is going on in our project and it is under control, within budget, and on schedule."
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