Viewing Posts by Danielle Ritter
I have been following a fascinating conversation started by one of our highly active community members, Mr. Stephane Parent, on the topic of those who ask questions and those who answer them within the community. He posited that both are valuable ways of contributing to the community, and asked his colleagues how they felt about the way that these two trends play out on ProjectManagement.com.
The discussion (linked here: http://www.projectmanagement.com/discussion-topic/39289/Question-or-Answer-) has been energetic and responses from other members validate that, yes, both actions create a more healthy community environment. Of course, one member also pointed out the very real “third trend”: those who log in and neither ask, nor answer.
In responding to this “third trend”, several have mused that members who are not actively participating in such discussions are difficult to connect with and that it is hard to feel a sense of connectivity to a silent community segment.
But does that mean that our silent members are not contributing to our community? It may be easy to draw that conclusion, but I wouldn’t start sketching it too soon.
Most communities, both online and in-person, have what community managers often hear referred to as “lurkers”. These individuals do not tend to voice their opinions, respond to questions, or ask them in the public forums. They quietly log in or enter a room, listening to the conversations, picking up resources, watch presentations and make notes, and quietly leave. They may go almost completely unnoticed, but they are still part of the community and most would tell you that they feel engaged by the community.
There is actually a commonly understood ratio of community member “types”, particularly online, and it usually looks like this 1:9:90. For every 100 members, you generally have 1 highly active contributor who tends to generate and lead activity within the community, about 9 frequent participators who respond to and interact with community activity, and about 90 members who quietly observe and rarely raise their voice. This is not a hard and fast ratio, but there are always higher numbers of “lurkers” than there are active contributors, and we are no exception.
There may be many reasons that this happens – even within a community of peers, not everyone is comfortable asking a question in a public forum, particularly if you feel that you are surrounded by subject matter experts who may perceive the question to be “simple”. And, no matter how long they may have been practicing within the profession, some members may not be confident that their experience translates to actual expertise. Circumstances can impact responses, and the best practice that works 99% of the time for them in their situation, may not be at all effective in another.
But our silent members are still here to learn from one another and, while they may not be very vocal in the public threads, that doesn’t mean they are not highly engaged within their own network. Their contributions may not be visible to the community at large, but they may have immeasurable impact elsewhere.
Consider the mentor who logs in and reads new content, follows discussions, and watches webinar presentations, and may be sharing all of this with a new practitioner in his or her company. Or the PMO Director who is not very visible online, but brings a wealth of knowledge back from ProjectManagement.com to her colleagues looking for tools and resources, helping develop his or her team and connect them with peers who can, in turn, help them develop themselves. The consummate talent scout who is helping a chapter build out a local, industry focused program by reaching out to great speakers and authors. And finally, some members may be facing very challenging issues which require discretion and cannot be addressed on a public forum – while these members may not post their questions on the discussion boards, they may be drawing upon their community network offline to seek help and talk through scenarios.
We may often tend to think of ProjectManagement.com as our community, however, as the Community Engagement team, we prefer to think of it as the “home” for our community – because we know that the website is only one of many places that the professional project management community gathers. And this means that community members may have different comfort levels, needs and modes of engagement in the different spaces where community meets, whether in the forums, in a virtual event, at a chapter meeting, or industry conference or even when they just decide to get together on their own.
When you look at our community in this way, it might surprise you to learn just how chatty our “silent members” are in these other spaces, and how they are contributing in ways we don’t see online.
We all have days at work where we want to bang our heads against a wall and we ask ourselves, “Why am I even doing this?!”
You know those days. Where things that should be simple turn out to be complicated in unforeseen ways. Or where you just can’t seem to clearly communicate the amazing idea you have in a way that gets heard. You know that everyone is trying to do more with less, and sift through all of the “nice to have” ideas in order to get to the “must have” requirements. You know everyone is really on the same team and that not everything can be “priority #1” – but it’s still frustrating.
Even community managers can have days like that – and we have a pretty fun job!!
The great thing about being a community manager here is that we get to attend events like Congress and the answer to my previous question comes crashing into us like a runaway train… We do this because our members care just as much about the community as we do. Because the profession makes a real impact on the world around us and on the people working to make a difference. Because when we have the privilege of connecting with the members of our community, they never fail to energize and inspire us all over again.
I had the opportunity to support nine members of the community who spent their time at Congress connecting one-on-one in informal “consulting” sessions with attendees. They were there to serve as expert advisers from the community, and by the end of our time together, every one of them had told me how much they had learned and benefited from their time talking with members of the community. After being booked solid for two days, they too, were re-energized and inspired!
We had a great interactive space to facilitate all of these conversations, complete with chalkboards for quick collaborative discussions and idea sharing.
On a whim, I had posted the following statement to one of the peripheral boards, as a kind of conversation starter: “Why I Became a Project Manager”. At the end of the first day, I did a quick tour of the boards, and when I saw this one, my jaw literally dropped. It was nearly filled with responses. By the end of the last day, there wasn’t room for any additional postings.
There were your expected answers, of course, like: “I fell into it” / “Boss made me” or “Job security” / “The money is good”. There were some fun answers, too: “Too short for modeling”, “Because I want to predict the future and learn how to control it”, or “I have been taken into the maelstrom”.
The ones that really got me, though, and reminded me why I love my own job so much, were the ones that spoke to the passion for the profession and the impact it has on the world around us – and there were almost too many of these to count. “To make a bigger impact on the organization”, “It’s what I was born to do”, “To change the world” (which got three votes), “It’s who I am”, “My calling”, “I discovered what I want to be when I grow up”, “Taking ideas to reality”, and “It felt like a fire inside – passion”. I don’t really know what more to say to that, other than, “WOW”.
Your passion is our passion. It inspires us and keeps us looking for new and better ways to support you, to connect with you and to help you to be successful in your careers. Thanks for all that you do to, in turn, support your community and to keep that fire burning!
I’m sure many of us have been following the news about the recent and devastating earthquake that took place in Nepal this past Saturday. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were lost in the disaster, and to all of those impacted and starting the difficult journey of recovery.
As a professional community of project managers, many of you may be wondering how to best support the work of responding to crisis, and rebuilding after a disaster, while others among us may have their own experiences and lessons learned that can be shared with those who are involved in these efforts.
I would like to use our Critical Path blog space this week to create a space where community members can:
Please keep in mind, when working in dangerous environments where time and safety are critical, it is important to work through established channels and support those organizations and agencies actively involved.
Be safe and be generous with your knowledge – the experience you share may be able to help those in need to better manage the process of recovery and rebuilding.