Some clients still see project management as a necessary evil, and this view can quickly make our job an uphill battle against negative perception. Others go even farther; only a few years ago, Forbes ran an interview with Nir Zuk, the founder and CTO of Palo Alto Networks, in which he stated that project managers will kill your company.
So, as project managers, let us be our own advocates and put the work we do into a larger context for all to see. In this article, I’ll share ways we can elevate the perceived value of project management within organizations and in the eyes (and hearts and minds) of our clients.
Have a Process
Project managers who work in an organization with an undefined or unpublished project process will get stuck at the hub of consistent confusion. Some of these organizations will state that they want a more fluid or flexible process so they can avoid standardization.
However, without a standardized process in place, project managers are inherently less valued because the teams and stakeholders they work with will not understand what their role truly is as project managers. And while there are a great many resources online and in bookstores on process, you will more than likely have to tailor your own processes based on your environment, project type/size and available resources.
A process is a “process.” It should never be stagnant, therefore you must regularly adapt it to your organization as it grows or changes. Publishing your process is as just important as creating one. Once you have a solid process defined you’ll need to onboard stakeholders and team members to this new standard.
For times like this, I suggest putting together a presentation showing the goals of your process. Explain the “why” behind your project management process. Displaying what you did “before” and what will happen “now” will resonate with tenured teams. Build out a physical or digital guidebook to share and create a regular publishing schedule to keep it updated as you apply lessons learned to enhance your process.
Taking the time to explain the benefits of the process to your teams and stakeholders in a way they can understand will go a long way toward broader adoption.
A strong project manager needs to consistently display a sense of urgency with their team and sponsors throughout the project lifecycle. This sense of urgency must focus equally on both the project deliverables and the business goals by searching for ways to save time and money.
Be the first to speak up when these opportunities arise. Proactively create plans to mitigate potential risks or implement possible opportunities and present these plans with the support of your team.
Relying only on meetings to discuss your project status can create more issues. Face-to-face communication is extremely important but – more often than not – important decisions or directions come after meetings. Communicate any potential gaps and opportunities formally with documentation and use your meeting time to review those documents.
Do not only only seek out the risks but look for ways to improve your project plan and deliverables everyday. From the start of your project, establish clear the communication channels you expect your team and sponsors to use to escalate issues and opportunities through.
Use that channel as a way to continually uncover undiscovered risks. If that channel is clear, ask yourself if that means there are no further open issues or concerns. Ask your team to help you groom this log throughout the project. Every project will experience exceptions, but the most-valued project manager seeks them out rather than waiting for them to arrive.
Deliver on-time and on-budget? Say so. Knock out a key milestone or sprint? Tell it. Wins are meant to be shared. Publishing your team’s ability to achieve business goals for a client or organization is a great way to show your true value. Establish a process for sharing wins internally and keep the messaging consistent. Keep your praise focused on your team and processes. It can be as simple as an email or as extravagant as trophies.
No win is too “small” to share. Keep a log of daily accomplishments associated with the project tasks. Did someone deliver a key piece of the project early? Has your stakeholder given you timely feedback and approvals? Let the entire team know about it.
It’s critical to treat your stakeholders as part of the team. The sponsors are the reason the project exists, but if they don’t understand their role and importance to the overall process you’ll miss out on a opportunity to build consensus. Consensus breeds trust and is a key ingredient to a successful project.
I’ve talked before about how you as the project manager are the glue in the project process. You need to be focused not only the work but also on the distribution of praise. Your stakeholders, clients and teams will quickly recognize that your role is not that of a task master but of a “project leader” – and, your team’s cheerleader. Being clearly associated with the project successes – and not only its deliverables – will build long-term value in your role.
Consistency is the fast lane to trust. When you build, utilize and publish a consistent project process, your stakeholders will begin to count on it and trust in the ability of your process to consistently deliver quality – thereby associating your PM role as a key to every success.
It’s also important to use project management tools to your advantage. ProjectManager.com allows you to collaborate regularly with stakeholders, share real-time project data, and offer real data insights on the value of the project throughout its lifecycle. Try it free for 30 days.