Some time back I was responsible for a portfolio of projects being done within the finance organization of my company. One of the projects was outsourced to a large consulting firm who supplied the project management, analysis, and development resources to the project. I would hold weekly meetings with the project manager who consistently gave me a "thumbs up" on the project up to the first key milestone being hit. When the week of the first milestone approached, he announced that the milestone was going to have to slip by a week to ensure successful delivery. The next week came along and again the project slipped a week. This went on for two more weeks with the promise of "we'll for sure nail it next week." I decided to do some crawling around the project to assess where the project was really at. Turns out we were at least a month away from delivering to the milestone which was already a month late.
I love baseball. I love watching the strategies, the big plays, the colossal errors (anyone remember poor Bill Buckner?) and the dramatic finishes. The Tampa Bay Rays, who in nine of their first ten years of existence finished dead last in their division (In 2004 they managed to beat out one team and finished fourth in their division), surprised everyone in 2008 by beating out such teams as the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees and made it to the World Series only to lose to the Philadelphia Phillies. Even though they lost the World Series, they were heroes in the eyes of millions who rooted for them and their storybook season.
One strategy that I particularly enjoy is the use of specialty players, of which the most prevalent is the "closer". The closer is a pitcher who is brought in for just a very short period of the game (typically the last inning of a game) to shut down opponent hitters and either secure a win for their team or allow a team who is behind to catch up in their last at-bat.
So maybe you think you're all that and a bag of chips and that you can get more things done than most people in your organization. As managers, though, it's not just about you getting things done on your own; it's about you getting your team to be as effective (or more) as you.
I deliberately use the term effective versus efficient. For me, there is a very clear distinction which I believe is crucial in driving results.
In an earlier leadership role I had been striving to create focus and accountability within each of our major work areas. The team responded beautifully with doing their best to adjust to roles, to stay focused on their areas, and to minimize confusion by stepping across boundaries. They did exactly as I asked.
We were in a team meeting and I could see that there was erupting confusion around contacting customers in an effort to close some sales. There was a lot of respect for my sales & marketing manager in not stepping in on her turf when it came to customers. Where the problem arose, though, was in the fact that the team was confused as to who was supposed to be following up on some key sales activity that had begun prior to our organizational re-alignment.
Some time back my son and I participated in a service project to help a young family clean out a back yard. At one time the yard was a wonderful oasis with a swimming pool, lush garden, and beautiful walkways. The once beautiful oasis was neglected over time and became an overgrown jungle of northwest foliage with its prime resident being thorny blackberry bushes. The blackberry bushes were six feet tall and covered most of the yard. What a prickly mess!
I’ve noticed an interesting trend in working with my clients. There is an increased focus on companies assembling project teams comprised of cross-organizational team members to solve problems. This is increasingly being done in favor of single organizations trying to produce results on their own. More and more project teams are taking on "virtual" characteristics where teams are temporarily assembled and could be located anywhere in the country or the world.
When I was a kid in Connecticut I went with my Father to take my sister and her infant son to the train station. My sister had a lot of bags so my Father helped her carry her things on to the train. I was standing on the platform waiting for my Father to get off the train so we could go home. Then all of a sudden the train started moving with my Father still on the train! Here I am, an 8-year-old boy standing on the train platform all by myself while my Father is on the train heading to Washington DC. I remember seeing the train start to pull away, and my Father waving at me through the window to go to the ticketing office so I can tell them what happened. This was in the days where there were no cell phones, so my Father couldn't communicate with me to let me know what was happening. I went into the ticketing office and through sobs told the ticket agent that my Father got stuck on the train and I got left on the platform all by myself. The ticket agent was very reassuring and told me that everything was going to be OK. Fortunately the next stop was only about 30 minutes away so I was reunited with my Father in an couple of hours. It was one of the scariest times of my entire childhood, being left on the train platform all by myself.
When I was a kid one Christmas I got a Lionel train set from my parents. It was really cool. The locomotive had a smoke stack that actually "smoked" when you put a drop of oil into it. I can still remember the burning oil smell the locomotive would emit as it raced around the tracks. The transformer which governed the speed of the train went all the way up to "90" (I still believe it was in "miles per hour!") and had three rail cars that were all different colors and a caboose. The train set also came with enough track to form a figure-8 that I would push the tracks together using special pins that fit into the ends of the tracks.
Some time back I spent about three hours writing and doing emails at one of our local malls. I love this place because there are lots of tables to sit at and the mall has free wireless access so I can be online all the time. As I was exiting the mall I noticed a woman about 20 feet away from the entrance heading into the mall. As I walked out the door I held the door open for this woman for a few seconds. As she walked by me into the mall she said "WOW!" She was surprised that I actually took three seconds out of my life to hold a door open for a complete stranger. Imagine what I could have done with those three seconds that I wasted :-).
Project management is changing….it's becoming more strategic, more mainstream, and not just synonymous with technology implementations. Today's PM needs to be more than technically adept or be able to whip out a gantt chart. Get a read on some of these crucial skills the everyday PM will need to succeed:
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