The introduction of cell phones is still surprisingly recent; and yet, they seamlessly (well, with some hiccups) integrated themselves into every corner of our lives. Who among us today can say they don’t feel distressed when they can’t locate their cell phone?
Cell phones are a metaphorical double-edged sword. Some project managers perceive them as a distraction, taking focus away from the task at hand; however, in some situations these devices introduce a manifold of developmental and organizational opportunity.
Broadly, “Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to a broad range of activities in order to meet the requirements of a particular project. Project management is comprised of five processes: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Controlling, and Closing” (PMBOK Guide, 2000).
The introduction of modern conveniences, specifically cell phones, have now simplified and expedited once onerous tasks involved in planning, executing, and controlling, throughout any project.
Working with the Team
The new generation’s social media habits require phone plans with large data usage. Compared to the constant stream of pictures and videos, intermittent informational searches only make up a fraction of data usage. This has benefitted managers exponentially, as their project team now has access to any operations manual, Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), or any form of information with no additional costs to the company.
As beneficial as this seems, it can also be detrimental. With a tool that allows access to virtually unlimited knowledge, an individual may ignore instruction, or “improve” SOPs as they see fit, often without the knowledge of the project manager. Often times, these improvements are misguided.
It is the job of the project manager to oversee the large picture, while it is likely that an employee only experiences a small portion of the operation; if unchecked, these “improvements” will lead to inconsistent production.
To resolve this issue, it is important for a modern project manager to encourage, and be open to suggestions. In this way, the project team and project manager may conceptualize how new information may change or improve operations. If appealing, it may be applied consistently throughout the business. Project managers who adopt this collaborative approach are more likely to surpass those who cling to the old ways. The basics for organizational structures are changing and developing to become more efficient; it is pertinent that we evolve too.
Execution and Control—Work with the Flow
Communication is pertinent to any relationship. But, the almighty cell phone has mutated the age-old methods and qualities of face-to-face interactions. Before the introduction of cellular devices, a manager placed particular ministrations on instruction prior to sending the team out to work, as reaching a field worker in the middle of the day is inefficient.
Now, with the acquisition of a cell phone, less consideration is placed on complete instruction. If any problems are encountered, a quick phone call, email or text is the expected solution.
Other problems can also arise from this on-the-fly approach. Firstly, a manager is now able to maintain a more constant line of communication between field operators, giving the manager a stronger sense of security and control; however, it can be easy for a manager to become imposing, as micro-management can now be conducted from a desk. Micro-management easily creates distain, which actively works against productivity and effective communication.
Personally, I recall a moment in a previous job when I abandoned all attempts of establishing a proper Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy, due to an over-imposing management style. An employee in the field with lack of instruction may be more tempted to improvise rather than ask for additional direction; while this may work out in some occasions, it can compromise overall quality and product uniformity.
If utilized correctly, the new generation of communication has the capacity to revolutionize project management. It is more important than ever to discuss with each member of the team the importance of sticking with SOPs; but at the same time the use of new technology needs to be encouraged, or even incentivised, to conduct independent research and challenge the status-quo.
The new generation project manager should listen, consider, and discuss the nuances between both methods, and come to a decisive answer before moving forward. Team input should be indeterminately valued, as it drives continuous improvement.
The Shift of Control
Ultimately, the introduction of technology has not made our lives any easier. Instead, it has shifted focus from rigidity towards a more agile management style that facilitates change. This new management style has its own set of challenges and risks, but pays off in rewards.
Project teams now have tools that provide unlimited access to knowledge at the touch of their finger-tips, revolutionizing the planning and execution stages of project management. Not every idea is a winner, but consider the validity of what your project team has to say—it may make the difference.
[infobox title=’Joseph Levitsky’]Joseph Levitsky is in his final year at the University of the Fraser Valley studying for a Bachelor in Agricultural Science with a focus on practical scientific applications in the agricultural industry. He combines this knowledge and experience with opportunities to work within the industry, observing farming practices, identifying and quantifying damages, and predicting resulting yields at his part-time job with Expert Agriculture Team Ltd.[/infobox]