Are you thinking big enough? Learning to manage your part of the business, not just the project

by Dr. Glen Jones

Project management is evolving, and project managers must evolve as well. For years, project management has been seen as the “get it done” profession. Project managers have been given scopes of work to complete, and they have charged ahead to accomplish the scope within the allotted budget and time. This demonstrates the strong work ethic of a project manager, but it does not necessarily get you a corner office.

As project management is beginning to be the approach of choice for delivering strategic initiatives and business objectives within organizations, project managers need to think strategically. This requires a shift in mindset for a project manager. It means no longer just coordinating the task list and watching the cost and schedule, although these details will be necessary to some extent.

Strategic initiatives, such as rolling out a new diversity program, or developing products for a new market, require project managers to be more business savvy. Understanding the business from its market and competitors to understanding the company’s financials has become a normal expectation. The business becomes the language of a project manager. It is important to see the big picture for the projects in which you are responsible and understand the strategy driving them.

Today’s project managers need to understand not only their scope but the scope of other projects and operations work within the organization and to analyze decisions with a comprehensive view of the organization. These decisions will be made based on what is best for the organization, not what is best for my project. Project managers can no longer build the walls around their projects to protect their scope, their budget, and their schedule.

These decisions begin to take the shape of tradeoffs between projects. It may be necessary to move scope (with budget and resources) between projects to ensure the overall company cost is optimal. This means that projects are viewed as portfolios of projects to satisfy certain strategic business needs. Project management needs to be viewed on a larger scale.

So how do project managers develop this bigger view within their organization? Research and asking questions is the answer. Study internal documentation and look online. Everyone should understand what the organization they work for produces. There is a wealth of information available if you look for it. Research not only your organization but also find out what you can about the markets the company serves and know what their competitors are offering.

Find out what is available about the organizational strategies. Companies usually focus on fewer than five in any given period of time. Consider asking questions about the business drivers that your project is intended to support, to understand how your project fits the company’s strategic plans. This includes understanding the value the project brings to the organization. Know the economic benefits the project is expected to bring.

It is still necessary to “get it done.” However, with all of the new business knowledge, and the understanding that the project is a part of the strategy, the decisions will be made with a more comprehensive benefit to the organization. With a strong understanding of the business and its strategy, and monitoring of the market and competitors, project management can begin to deliver real benefits to the organization more efficiently. This is a call to action for project managers to think with the bigger picture in mind. Expand your horizons to manage your part of the business, not just the project.


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