Deliver while in chaos

By Eric Knight via blogs.hbr.org   Article

Three Imperatives for Good Project Managers

“How do you deliver complex, multi-level, multi-year programs of work across teams and business units that may be, quite honestly, in chaos? I sat down with three senior executives leading major projects at complex, fast-moving organizations  and asked them what they do to be effective. They had all worked across multiple industries in their careers, run successful projects (and also some that had failed), and extracted lessons that made sense at every organizational level.

Here are the three tips they said had the biggest impact:

Be strategic, not tactical. The biggest mistake most managers make is that they spend their days and nights focusing on tactics when they really need to think about strategy. …  strategy asks whether the milestones being created are the right ones. … Strategy is all about making trade-offs. In a world where you can’t do everything, what are the one or two things you really need to focus on?

Talk about the red. … When senior leadership started normalizing failure, employees felt more comfortable flagging when things were going off track –and working out how to fix them. Let’s be clear: it can be pretty demoralizing talking about failure all the time. Senior leaders need to know how to thank people who use their time well, and focus on the things that matter –especially the bad news.

Have leading, not lagging, indicators. … Many managers aren’t able to tell their bosses if a project is off target, over budget, or past schedule until it has actually happened. Far more useful is to have lead indicators. These are triggers built into project plans so that managers have foresight into what’s going wrong as it’s happening. … Building good lead indicators means thinking about what really matters and giving that issue sufficient visibility. …

Following these three principles is a good step towards turning good ideas to great execution.”

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