Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Tipping Point for PM

In his popular book, "The Tipping Point", Malcom Gladwell describes three personalities that affect communications and the spread of information.

Since most acknowledge the central role that communications play in effective project management, it's worth a moment to consider these personality types in the context of projects:

The maven: The absorber and distributer of facts and information.  Mavens have an encyclopediac memory and an ability to easily absorb and organize all manner of data bits.  Mavens are eager to inform and teach, but equally eager to learn, and often combine informing and learning in the same encounter.  Every project team should have mavens who can cross-pollinate between project information sources.  Mavens are sort of a human index of all the project's information, absorbing and processing changes--they are a human "select (*)" for whatever query is needed.  They are also the project coach for conveying an understanding the information base of the project, teaching team members what things mean.

The connector: The connector collects relationships.  The connector knows everyone and is known by everyone.  The connector is the transport layer for the project.  The connector knows how to launch the message into their network and get the message around, although the maven may have to forumlate the message.  The connector is trusted among his/her network, and trust adds weight to the "word".  The connector adds agility to project communications because of  the efficiency with which information is spread and impact the connector can bring to the task.  If connector and maven are joined in the same person, then the project has not only an effective means to spread the word, but also has the means to convey depth and understanding as well.

The salesman: The salesman is the persuader, the person that helps with diffusing new ideas in such manner that adoption is efficient.  Every project has a need for the salesman: initially to get the project sold through the process of the business case or charter, and then to keep it sold when the inevitable problems arise.  There will always be stakeholders who have perception-reality alignment issues, seeing challenges as either insurmountable or unaffordable.  When you have the salesman and the connector in the same person, the project not only has the person to get the word around, but the "word" will be persuasive.

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