Categories: Best Practices, Change Management, Communication, Complexity, Innovation, Leadership, PM & the Economy, Program Management, Strategy
by Dave Wakeman
In my posts from the last few months, I’ve been discussing strategy and how you can make yourself a more strategic project manager. A lot of project managers still struggle with this idea.
One source of this struggle seems to be uncertainty about what strategy means in relation to being a project manager and part of a larger organization.
First, let’s start with a simple definition of strategy: a plan of attack designed to achieve a major goal. So where does that apply to project managers? Pretty much everywhere. Here are three ways you can look at it.
1. Think from the end backward, not from the start forward.
A few months back, I wrote about managing for the right outcomes. And that means starting with the end in mind. In being a strategic project manager, at its simplest, you are really just starting out by planning your project with the end in mind. Considering that we are all supposed to begin our projects with a planning phase, it makes sense to not just plan, but plan with the intention of fitting everything into a commonly focused outcome.
Think about it like this: The planning process is designed to make sure that you have the time and resources available for your project and that you know where you are going. In being strategic, you just need to make sure you always make your decisions with the end in mind.
2. Don’t become wedded to one course of action.
What I’ve seen in working with organizations around the globe is that it’s very easy to become wedded to one course of action. That can’t be your position if you want to work strategically.
When you’re approaching tasks and challenges and the inevitable same old ideas and solutions come up, ask simple questions: “What are our options here?” “Is there a different way of approaching this?”
All you’re looking for is opening up your actions to different avenues for success.
3. Lovingly steal from everything around you.
I’m not advocating a life of crime, but one thing you want to do is start stealing ideas from the businesses around you.
This is important because in too many cases, we become locked into one idea, one way of thinking or ways that projects have always been done. This is especially true in industries that have always been closely associated with project management, like construction and IT.
How should you go about stealing ideas that may be helpful to your projects?
To use a personal example, I found a use for my project management background in politics. In politics, many titles include “strategist” or “manager” or something that elicits the idea of project management and structure. But due to the intense nature and timeframes of a political campaign, most of that planning and structure is quickly tossed out of the window.
In my work in politics, I introduced the role of a traditional project manager and applied that framework to every aspect of the campaign and process. Essentially, I added a layer of change management and monitoring foreign to many in the industry.
Now think about what you can learn from outside your industry. Can you discover a management tactic from a TV show? Or is there a parallel in another industry that gives you a useful piece of insight?
Am I off base or what? Let me know below!
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