We had Management by Objectives (MBO); Management by Walking Around (MBWA); Total Quality Management (TQM); Management by Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) and lots of other trends and tricks. Now we have Management by Tweeting (MBT). But wait, is it a management tool?
Let me proclaim here first that I love Twitter. I understand how powerful it can be. Twitter can foment revolution, it can create a movement. Tweets are part of the core of pop culture. Celebrities let us know what’s for lunch. People we don’t know provide inspirational sayings, advertisements, personal updates and snarky comments. It is the source of news for us and we are addicted. But is it a management tool? Is it something for leaders to use to help drive a strategy and be successful? We are finding out.
Any management textbook will tell you that the role of a manager is to Plan, Lead, Organize and Control. Inherent in all of these skills is the ability to communicate. We can hold Twitter up to each skill and it’s hard to make a case that it helps the cause.
I use Twitter. I see why others use Twitter. And, based on my own books and writing, I am known for brevity and the creative use of “bullets” in presentations. So I understand and believe in really short and directive messages. I am a believer that mission statements should be short and strategies should fit on the back of an envelope.
So what is wrong with Twitter as a management tool? Let me count the ways…
- A tweet is too short to deliver a big message or provide real feedback. “I have a dream…” doesn’t fit in a tweet. And whether the feedback is positive or negative, 140 characters can only say “great job” or “you screwed up”. After that, there is not much room for further explanation about how to improve or why you screwed up. Sample tweet: “Kate, the project is behind schedule and over budget! Very bad!”
- A tweet is one-way unless you engage in a tweet exchange. The back and forth might be amusing but can sometimes make matters worse. Tweets can be cruel if an individual is singled out.
- Tweets can’t be taken back and there will probably be times you wish you hadn’t sent it. Drunk tweets are known to cause people to get fired. Tweets sent in the heat of a moment can do more damage than good.
- Not everyone is on Twitter. Some downright reject it and consider it another annoyance of the digital age. So using Twitter as a management tool means not everyone is being managed.
Using Twitter can be an effective communications method, but for an organization, it doesn’t stand alone. A tweet is OK for: “The IPO is done! Great job everyone”, but that’s where it’s effectiveness diminishes rapidly. Communications requires color and personality that is more multi-dimensional than a tweet can deliver. Real communications requires a voice that sets the tone of an organization. Real communications from a leader requires inspiration and cheerleading. There are situations that might require pointed ways that things need to change and Twitter is good at that. Or, there could be an emergency so please spread the word. Twitter is especially good in that case.
Maybe tweets can augment all the important things that a managerial role requires, but any number of tweets does not a leader make.