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This page is devoted to news, tips, and any other information the Project Management community may find useful or interesting.

The Social Network

Just watched a movie titled "The Social Connection" about the founding of Facebook and the people who founded it. I found the movie to be entertaining, I'm usually attracted to movies about people and events and this movie met that criteria. I'm also interested in stories about interesting people and these people were certainly interesting. I also came away with some thoughts on the lessons that aspiring project managers or entrepreneurs could take away.

Let me start by saying that we should realize that the primary goal of this movie is to entertain us, not inform or instruct us. A good movie won't alter the facts, but they will shade situations to reinforce the roles they cast their characters in. The effect that seemed to have on this movie is to portray Mark Zuckerberg, one of the founders of Facebook as a villain, and the other principal characters as victims of his villainy. I'm sure that the actual facts and people were much more nuanced than what was portrayed in the movie. Unfortunately for Mark, movies tend to make a lasting impression on those who watch, especially a well made movie. There may be some who will take the time to research the situation further but millions will form an opinion of Mark based on the movie. Even those who take time to research the subject further will probably come across some text messages which were sent by Mark at the time which don't reflect well on him, and that's what brings me to my first point.

The text messages I'm referring to are a little too short to guess what frame of mind Mark was in when he sent them, but I'm guessing that there was some degree of anger and/or frustration involved which tended to colour them. I'm sure that he never dreamed that they would come back to haunt him 5 years after they were sent, but here they are. The lesson I take away from this is to make sure the messages I send, either text messages or e-mails, are written in temperate language. I realize that this is more difficult to do for text messages than e-mails. Text messages are designed to be informal and quick but they are still records of your communication and can still come back to haunt you. The next time you find yourself frustrated or angry at a situation or a text message you've received, vent that frustration or anger before texting. Vent with a colleague or step out into the hall and vent where no-one can hear you. Send your text message after you've vented. You'll find that separating your message from your emotions will temper your language and your message will be less inflammatory.

E-mails are also enduring records of our conversations. They are much easier to store and access than text messages so they should be treated with even more respect. Use the same approach with your e-mail as you do with your text messages. Don't compose and send e-mails when you are in the grip of a strong emotion, vent the anger or frustration first. There is a simple method you can use to avoid starting an e-mail war or sending a "flaming" e-mail: don't use capitals, bold text, italics, or exclamation marks in your e-mail. If you're still in doubt as to the tone of the e-mail after these measures, get a colleague to look it over and judge its tone. Having asked for their advice, be polite enough to accept it and change the mail accordingly.

The other observation I have has to do with the reputations that we build and the legacies that we leave. I think that Mark might have approached the situation somewhat differently if he had been thinking about the effect his actions would have on his reputation and legacy. I had read an article about American tycoon Milton Hershey just before seeing the movie and am struck by the contrast between the two reputations, Mark's and Milton Hershey's. Hershey built a vast fortune from his chocolate making business (although he seems to have retained very little of it for his personal enjoyment) but does not seem to have made any enemies in the process, or at least none that I read of. Hershey built his fortune at the same time as the "robber barons", the internet billionaire entrepreneurs of their day, were making their fortunes. Although some made fortunes larger than Hershey's you won't find any towns named after them (Hershey, Pennsylvania). Mark was extremely young (still is) when he began making his fortune and his mistakes so some of his mistakes should be chalked up to youth and inexperience, but we can learn from the mistakes.

Always remember that there is an additional outcome from your enterprises: an addition to your reputation. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to build a good reputation and only a short time and one mistake to destroy it so act accordingly. When you manage projects always put your ego on the back burner, don't enhance your reputation at the expense of the project, the stakeholders, or your colleagues. The question for project managers is simpler, perhaps than for entrepreneurs: our success or failure depends on the project. Once we determine that we're comfortable with the project's goals and objectives our course is clear. Just remember that we don't deliver our projects in a vacuum and if we use "dirty tricks" to score that solutions architect from a rival project we may not be doing the organization any good and we will certainly damage our reputation with the rival project manager. As someone once told me "Be careful whose hands you step on climbing that ladder because you may meet some of those same people on your way down!"

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