The Missing Link

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Breaking barriers and building bridges to better manage projects and lead teams.

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That's a great idea! Um ... how are we going to do it? Innovative thinking is a wonderful asset to any organization, one that should be encouraged and supported. But it's more wonderful when the great ideas get translated into tangible value.

The fact is, most cool concepts quickly go cold for want of the ways and means to execute them. All those dirty details that turn vision into reality, strategy into results — that's where project leadership comes in. But unfortunately, that's also where it often exits.

Yes, most organizations realize the importance of strong project management practices. And many have invested in project management offices, tools and training. Still, many of these same organizations see project after project continue to veer off track. Sure, some goals are achieved, but others aren't. Savings are realized here, but how much is wasted there? What's the problem, who's to blame? After all, the strategy was sound, the idea was great. It had to be poor execution that caused the project to come up short!

But time and again, it is not poor execution that is the cause of project failure. It’s not misguided strategy, either. It is the separation of strategy from execution that remains the great operational divide in the business world. This missing link leaves us spinning our competitive wheels, while frustrating the very people — the project managers and teams members — who are expected to deliver the results.

And barring extreme good fortune or superhuman efforts, projects will continue to fail until the strategic planning and the project managing are meaningfully integrated.

It isn't easy. Project teams — agile, traditional or hybrid — still operate in a vacuum all too often. Individuals focus on their own challenges and deadlines, not the big-picture vision or bold idea. And why would they if they don't participate in the development — or at the very least, the validation and refinement — of those ideas? No, if they're only asked to get things done, then only "things" will get done.

Project managers can't single-handedly bridge the disconnect caused by hierarchal power-hoarding; it’s embedded in many corporate cultures. But you don't have to be helpless victims. There are ways to get on the executive radar, and they don't all require becoming a radical outcast. In preparing your next progress report, take a second look to see if you are solely addressing your issues (however valid they may be), but not the issues keeping your bosses awake at night. Talk up customer value and financial metrics, then reframe them in terms that relate to your team's day-to-day reality.

Sure, project management is about getting things done on time, on budget and to scope. But it should be about one more thing: context. You and your team live that context as much as any executive does — often more so.

Companies will not succeed without engaged, motivated project teams — and that starts with the project leader — the living, breathing link between innovation and value, strategy and execution.

Posted on: October 23, 2018 04:17 PM | Permalink

Comments (15)

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Great article Aaron, thank you so much for such a nice contribution.

Very inrteresting article, thanks for sharing

So true Aaron, thanks for bringing this up

Aaron, you are absolutely right on this point "Companies will not succeed without engaged, motivated project teams — and that starts with the project leader — the living, breathing link between innovation and value, strategy and execution." Thanks for sharing.

You wrote, " Innovative thinking is a wonderful asset to any organization, one that should be encouraged and supported. But it's more wonderful when the great ideas get translated into tangible value."

Might you be confusing invention with innovation? Innovation differs from invention in that an innovation is adopted by a person and is actually used.

Great article Aaron, you are right, without involvement no commitment, said Steven Covey. The project team ought to be involved via the project manager in strategy for project execution.

Aaron...with these statements we are painting what looks to me like quite a negative project world:
"projects will continue to fail " and "projects will continue to fail "

We need to acknowledge that many of the PMs on this forum are delivering successful projects and also innovating and working strategically every day and helping their teams do the same.

What an interesting article. What are some recommendations for project managers/leaders to start building the bridge?
What are the attributes of project leaders who do a good job of this already? And what can we learn from them?

That's interesting article. Thanks.

Context does matter, which is why we always say "it depends".

I like this and I like the emphasis on the role of the Project Manager to be that link.

Yes, Its one of a key concept of Project management to come-up with Innovative thinking & motivate others, really its a wonderful assets to break the barriers and find a better way of success though the ideas to be implemented for creating tangible value.

Thanks for sharing such a wonderful article.

Great article thanks for sharing!

If you think Project Teams operate in a Vacuum, try working in a competitive but not collaborative sales environment.

You'll re-think that sentiment fast if you had to enter the "Shark Tank"

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