Get your head out of your….

Project Plan.  What were you thinking?

When we talk project management, there are a few topics that always come up.  Do we need to be PMP Certified?  What platform should we be leveraging?  Are our processes scalable and do they add value to the business?  As we move into more of the detail, we get into the discussions on implementing risk management, comprehensive stakeholder analysis, effective communications and so on.  While this is all very valuable and the core of what we need to think about and do in project/program management, there is something many folks often forget about…the reality of what is going on around us!  As PMs, we must pull our head out of our Project Plan and pay attention to what is not being tracked, reported, and spoken about.

As I think about some of the past projects I have worked on and their ‘success’, I can’t help but wonder if they were in fact successful.  While they remained within budget, hit the date, delivered the functions requested by the business and with a level of quality that met expectations/measures; some of the products hit the market with underwhelming response.  But when we revisit with partners, customers, and the business we were told the price point is right, the capabilities are on, coverage is there. etc etc etc.  This is where it gets interesting and camps begin to form….many feel the project manager is successful if they have hit time, budget, functions, quality.  However, on the other side there is a growing camp that states if project/program management is going to be a true value add to the business, it must be able to show value ($$$) it has generated.  Unfortunately, this can get into a whole discussion on Product vs. Project Management…one that I am scheduled to Guest Host via @ProdMgmtTalk on October 17th with @cindyfsolomon & @brainmates. Enough of the self-promotion – sorry!

If project/program managers are going to be sustainable, value-added resources of the organization then their contribution needs to go beyond checklists and “I did my part.”  We already know that when a team member isn’t pulling their own (i.e. – missing dates) that a cup of coffee or lunch is called for.  But what happens when the business doesn’t realize the benefits from a perfectly executed project?  We can’t just throw our hands up and say “I completed the project on-time.”  Project/Program Managers must be consistently networking in the organization and understanding who the influencers are.  I have been on countless projects where the Product/Marketing Managers are ‘socializing’ the idea and ‘speaking’ with the business, but come launch time we here “Exec John Doe in Platform X says he doesn’t want his sales team spending a minute selling this.”

As project managers, we walk that fine line of micromanagement as a good thing or bad thing.  A good project manager will provide leadership and facilitate an environment of productivity where the the functional experts can solution, develop, etc.  A great project manager (gets his/her head out of there project plan) and is networking in the organization, listening for who in Sales has been engaged and the feedback that has been provided.  When they recognize the real influencers have not been engaged and adoption is at risk, they take upon themselves to ‘socialize’ the product/service.  Project Managers can not simply rely on Exec J Doe’s ‘right-hand man’ if that person has no influence at launch.  The same goes for strategic objectives of the business.  If you are operating in your own little project bubble, you won’t know that your competitor just launched an industry game changer and your project is being scrapped.  Had you stepped away from the project template for an hour or two, to network with some folks in Bus Intelligence & Strategy, you might have known to position your initiative for the upcoming shift in corporate strategy,

Project/Program Managers need to introduce themselves to others outside of the project team.

  1. Not many folks will say “I know we only hit 25% of our target , but that $50 million investment didn’t go over budget and that Project Manager was really organized.” No…that project failed!  Right, wrong or indifferent.  You need to be an enterprise evangelist if you want support.
  2. The RACI/ARCI charts make it so nice…legal is responsible for this and IT is accountable for that.  Picture a big stamp (i.e. – Draft Watermark) that goes across that whole thing – Project Manager.  At the end of the, you own it all!
  3. Networking can be cheesy at times, but it is an invaluable part of a contract-heavy industry like PM.  Plus, having something valuable to talk about makes it a lot less cheesy.

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