I met yesterday with a friend – let’s call him ‘Glenn’ – who works for one of the UK’s leading construction contractors. We talked a bit about social media and its take-up in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector, and he described how his organisation had experimented internally with blogs.
The initial explosion of blogs saw dozens started on the company’s intranet (a few withered and died after the early excitement wore off). However, Glenn said, some directors began to get a bit worried about the implications of allowing project managers to write blogs about their day-to-day work on site, and having all the entries searchable. For example, he explained, what if a project manager’s blog posts included notes about poor health and safety practices by a subcontractor that then led to an accident or, worse still, a site fatality. Any ensuing investigation might identify that the project manager had been lax in his duties, leaving the contractor liable to prosecution. As a result, the firm decided to ban all staff blogs below C-level directors and business unit heads.
In my experience in the UK construction sector, such action is typical of the risk-averse attitudes that prevail in many AEC organisations, particularly when it comes to transparency of information. It seems to be tackling the symptoms of a problem not the cause.
I see little difference between our hypothetical project manager jotting something down in a blog posting and the same person scribbling a hand-written note in a note-book. The issue here should not be about the blog, about how the note was written, but about how the project manager enforces good health and safety discipline on site. Better still, if the subcontractor (and other project team members) could read the project manager’s blog – perhaps it could feature as part of the scheme’s collaboration platform – the health and safety issue would be public knowledge within the project team and might prompt rapid remedial action. Or am I being over-optimistic?
If anyone has some examples (good or bad) of how blogs have been used by project managers, I would be interested to know.