When Waze, the traffic and navigation app, came out in 2009 I did not understand why it was needed. At the time, there was an abundance of personal navigation devices (PND) that were by far more efficient than traditional paper maps. I could not understand why another such device was needed, let alone one that required constant access to the internet.
Today, Waze is the world’s largest community based traffic and navigation app. I use Waze constantly, not just for navigating through unfamiliar roads. I use Waze in very familiar territory; in my home town, driving to work, or visiting friends and family.
Waze provides a unique service other navigation apps do not deliver. Waze uses real-time traffic and obstacles information to help me find the most optimized route to reach my goal, with constant updates to my expected time of arrival. When traffic conditions change, or when I make navigation decisions, Waze immediately recalculates the course and gives me an updated route and ETA. Traffic is ever-changing. Often I will not arrive at the original ETA forecasted when I set out. Yet, I will always arrive at the expected time, because Waze constantly updates my ETA. Therefore, I can inform my friends that I may be early or late and I can make adjustments to my schedule accordingly.
Clarizen does the same for project management. Clarizen harnesses the power of the cloud to provide real-time monitoring that helps me navigate the project and keep my stakeholders and customers in full alignment. Prior to using Clarizen, I didn’t think much of project management tools. Up until then, project management tools were a means to produce Gantt charts for steering committees and periodic reports. Traditional PPM was like common navigation apps – static and disconnected from reality. To keep my traditional PPM tool up-to-date, I had to work hard to gather information and feed the beast. In fact, with traditional PPM, I was working for the tool instead of the tool working for me.
Collaborative work management completely transformed the way I work. With Clarizen, I hardly spend any time on gathering information and zero time on preparing reports. I can now use my valuable time to observe, think, analyze, question, innovate and socialize. I have the time and space to lead the project, instead of administrating it.
With collaborative work management, planning and follow-up can be delegated and shared across the organization. If you build an effective project organization with clear targets, roles and responsibilities then building and updating the work breakdown structure becomes a natural collaborative exercise.
So community based traffic navigation and collaborative work management have a lot in common. Yet, there are two cardinal differences between the two:
1) Traffic navigation follows well known and frequently travelled routes. Information comes from other drivers on the same route, ahead of you. Work management is about innovation. Every project is unique, in one way or another; projects pave new, uncharted routes. Otherwise they wouldn’t be projects. They would simply be on-going, repetitive operations such as mass production, support services, scheduled maintenance, and several other forms of work that follow a routine.
2) In the world of traffic navigation drivers collaborate passively, hands free. A driver may volunteer to provide information on a certain obstacle or checkpoint, but the system does not depend on the drivers’ active participation. Drivers just drive, Waze does the rest. Collaborative work management requires active participation in constructing project plans and providing progress updates.
So how does Clarizen provide real-time navigation in a world of uncharted routes, and how can we encourage user participation?
In projects, the plan, its work breakdown structure of milestones, tasks and dependencies, is our navigation map. While in traffic navigation, the map depicts real existing roads. In work management the plan is a graphical representation of ideas, expectations and assumptions. The plan is merely a reference, a navigation aid, not to be taken too seriously. In John Lennon’s words, “life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” Clarizen lets us navigate through the project, and constantly check ourselves in light of our ‘map of expectations,’ so when “life happens” we can identify the changes immediately, recalculate our course, and/or realign our expectations.
Of course, collaborative work management relies on user participation. By nature, people do not like to fill reports. Perhaps in the future, computer systems will be able to anticipate our productivity and progress, just as Google monitors and anticipates our search patterns. Until that happens, active participation remains a critical success factor for collaborative work management.
So how can an organization stimulate participation and adoption?
1) Lead by Example – When executives rely on Clarizen for clarity and alignment, the organization will follow and participate.
2) Effective Delegation – Effective delegation means that subordinates have the freedom to take decisions and act upon them. They don’t just feed the system with data for their superiors, they use it for their own analysis and decision making. Thus, managers at all levels rely on Clarizen for clarity and encourage widespread participation to produce accurate and reliable data for themselves.
3) Simplicity and Usability – With Clarizen, simplicity and usability are a given. Short, one-step progress reporting and a fully configurable GUI provide a user friendly collaborative experience, sparing the organization endless mundane status meetings.
Collaborative work management is changing the way we work, just as community-based traffic navigation, like Waze, changed the way we commute. New technology enables us to replace traditional, centralized, meeting-based, management styles with fast, agile and super productive working communities. But it’s not just a technology. In order to adopt, collaborative work management challenges us to excel as managers – to build working relationships powered by delegation, transparency and trust.