Those of you who have followed my writing over the past few years will know that the most common word I use to describe project management is predictability. Uncertainty in terms of outcomes and stakeholder expectations is hardwired into the DNA of projects, hence the primary value we bring to our organizations is by increasing the level of predictability about their investments.
However, this speaks to the end but not the means.
A mantra that I have heard multiple times over my career is “Do the right thing“. Even the outgoing CEO of my company incorporated this phrase as part of the final sentence of his official farewell speech earlier this week.
Imagine the power of an organization where every individual walks around with that mantra as their core guiding principle.
The challenge comes when we realize that the right thing is in the eye of the beholder. It is the classic issue of good intentions translating into unintended consequences or worse, complete contradiction in goals from individual to individual or department to department.
You might say that having a shared set of core values and a well defined set of strategic objectives can overcome this. To a certain degree this can be true (e.g. Google’s early successes with it’s corporate motto of “Don’t be evil”), but when we narrow focus to the context of specific projects, misalignment still occurs resulting in reduced efficiency and effectiveness.
One of my favorite analogies to describe the role of a project manager is as the conductor of an orchestra. Each individual musician is a subject matter expert, usually with more experience and competency with their instrument than the conductor. They all are capable of playing a piece individually in a quality fashion. However, without guidance from the conductor, the full orchestra is likely to not be too melodious.
A critical element of “how” of project management is in identifying and applying timely course corrections to their team members to help align their talents and energy.
Without this, they will all “do the right thing” in multiple different directions. Hope you like herding cats!