A PM’s focus needs to be their own project
I was reading an article the other day that stated a PM’s “sole responsibility is to create value, efficiency & productivity in the entire organization” (emphasis mine). Yikes! Although the rest of the article made some salient points, I have to disagree with this one. If I’m hired to implement a software program in manufacturing, for example, my “sole responsibility” is not to muck around in how their Quality systems are being managed. If I start focusing externally, I’ll never complete my own project!
As a Project Manager, we need to remember that we’re there for the project. Let the VP of Quality worry about efficiency in their own area. Sure, we might see something that can be changed in Manufacturing as we go through our project, but we need to use a little common sense. It’s like fixing a kitchen cabinet and suddenly you’re talking to a contractor about an entire renovation. Just fix the cabinet! If you want to do a renovation, then plan for it – else your cabinet will be broken for 8 months until the rest of the kitchen is working again.
A team member once commented to me that his company spends so much time focusing on new “efficiency processes ” that he can’t get any work done! I agree. I’ve seen it time and again. Organizations want to improve – their hearts are in the right place. But they don’t think through the impact. You can’t jump into Agile in two months. You can’t declare “no meetings longer than 15 minutes” without other avenues to allow collaboration and discussion. And you can’t fix the world all at once.
Let’s also talk about people for a minute – those folks in the departments you’re changing. No, not the ones impacted by your project – they’re covered by your thoughtful stakeholder analysis and communication plan (at least, I hope so!). I’m talking other departments you’ve decided it’s your “sole responsibility” to make efficient. Please remember: if it’s not your area, you don’t know the whole story! There may be a reason it’s done “that way”…it’s not always “because we’ve always done it this way.” It could be a system limitation or a quality requirement. It may be the only way they can get a much-needed piece of data out of the system. You just don’t know.
We also need to be careful not to burn bridges. If we stick our nose into someone else’s area, even with the best intentions, we can come across as pushy, arrogant, and invasive. And we won’t get anywhere! Bringing it closer to home (pun intended), if your neighbor came into your house and just cautious of stepping on toes. If we discover an inefficiency that’s causing a major problem, there are ways approach it that aren’t so caustic. And if it’s an obvious inefficiency, they’ve probably already tried to solve it. A fresh perspective may be welcome, but don’t insult the department head by barging in with guns blazing.
Take one step at a time
All PMs notice inefficiencies and risks. It’s how we operate. We also want to fix the world…and sometimes we’re not patient about it. But as they say, “slow down to speed up.” Stay calm, focused, and finish what you’re working on now. We’ll get our chance to – but we need to do it one project at a time.