It was a small company with limited staff and a national presence, and things weren’t going so well. The board decided it was time to oust the current president and replace him with someone new.
The barbarians were at the gate.
The weeks that followed were rough. Those who were allied with the old guard wondered about their future prospects with the company. The new guard had brought in their team of professionals and meticulously interviewed anyone and everyone in sight. Everyone knew that lists were made concerning who should stay and who should go.
And then there was the new president. His mantra? What is being done to increase shareholder value? It reverberated through each and every conversation with him, whether he brought it around to bringing in more top-line revenue, optimizing each department in the company or minimizing the expenses that were going out the door. He was solely focused on increasing shareholder value.
Believe it or not, this was a new concept for many at the company—a family-owned business that had grown through the family-owned network. People had become comfortable in their positions and were fine with staying with the status quo. Not this guy. The status quo wasn’t good enough. He existed for one purpose and one purpose alone…to increase the value of the company.
That mentality was a shock to the system at the time, and all the firing and hiring made for some turbulent weeks. Eventually, things settled down and the about-face in direction was followed by months and years of smooth sailing.
Value is not always about money, however. We often talk about products being a value-add, or a benefit, to a customer. But we also talk about the value people bring to an organization. We all strive to bring the most value, but there’s not always a clear path as to how to do that.
What Are You Doing to Increase Value?
Those words about increasing value have stuck with me to this very day. It’s important to ask what you are doing as a project manager to increase value.
Why? Because project management as a profession is sometimes considered something that’s nice to have, or as just another layer of unnecessary administrivia. The industry as a whole is undergoing a shift, and that shift could mean you.
To that end, there are three words I like to keep in the forefront of anything I do as a project manager: Clarity, Focus and Closure. Incorporating those three words into everything you do as a project manager is sure to bring value to your organization.
Clarity is all about removing confusion and ambiguity from your teams and projects. There are plenty of opportunities for confusion to creep in, ranging from incomplete or vague requirements to political rifts between two departments in a company that may be deliberately setting each other up for failure.
It’s within these environments that projects will get underway with all kinds of unanswered questions related to direction, responsibilities, the definition of completion, and other key aspects necessary for project success. The reasoning is that all of these things can be figured out along the way.
This is where you can really bring value as a project manager. Step back and view the project as if you were somebody brand new to the company or the project that’s about to be undertaken. What questions would you have? What questions would you have as a new person that knows nothing about what the goals for accomplishment are?
Don’t be afraid to ask these questions or assume that they’ve already been answered. It’s sometimes the most obvious piece of a project that gets missed.
An example: a company was working on a software application that would revolutionize the way people purchased financial products online. Everyone in the room was so focused on the application itself that they forgot about what would fuel the application. A lone project manager raised his hand and posed a question that on the surface may have seemed obvious: Do we have the necessary data to drive the application?
The answer was no, and fortunately, the question had been asked early enough that something could be done to make sure the data was there to support the application.
You can bring huge value as a project manager by bringing such clarity to projects. Bring groups of people together and make sure everyone is on the same page; don’t leave questions unanswered; don’t leave any grey areas or answers that could be interpreted two different ways, and make sure everyone is clear on what needs to be done.
Now that you’ve established your ability to bring clarity to projects, the next area where you can really bring value is to create the conditions that allow everyone to focus on the task at hand. There are so many shiny things that keep people distracted today on the job that it’s hard to get work done on just one thing. People bounce from meeting to meeting, their priorities shift all the time, and the VP that yells the loudest or carries the biggest stick is the one whose work gets moved up to the front of the line.
Do all that you can to set your project team up to have hour upon hour of uninterrupted time each day to work on the project. Run interference for your resources. Keep them out of meetings that would be a waste of their time, but bring back information that is important and relevant for them to know. Set up a brief time each day to check in with everyone and see if they need anything or if something is impeding their progress.
This will help ensure that the right things are getting done in the right time frame.
Finally, a big part of the value you bring as a project manager is to wrap things up and shut things down.
Think about why this is so important.
Nothing of consequence happens until a project is complete. Resources aren’t freed up to move on to the next project unless the first project is done. Your company won’t receive final payment from a client until the project is 100% finished and turned over to them. Money-saving systems or processes won’t be implemented in your company until the project that supports them is complete.
So many things hinge on the successful completion of a project that it’s necessary to make sure they get closed out in a timely manner. This is easier said than done, but you can facilitate closure by doing a couple of things.
First, from the very beginning of the project make sure you have a clear definition of what is considered complete—which provides clarity at the end of the project. For example, you may think the definition of complete is to finish a software project and hand it off to the client for them to implement and train their organization to use it. Their definition of complete may be different; they may expect you to implement it and train them. That difference could cause the project to drag on for an extended (and costly) period of time.
Second, be sure to follow a change control process that documents new requests, which have a way of being tacked onto the original project timeline. The next thing you know, the perception is that the project is never wrapping up, when the reality is that three to four weeks of minor requests were added. Make sure you close down what was originally agreed upon before you move into the next phase, or make it clear that additional work has been added to the original scope.
Keep Clarity, Focus and Closure top-of-mind whenever you work with your teams, clients, or executives. Another clear and obvious way to add value is to make effective use of your online project management software to track project progress and give you and your team real-time insights into how your goals are progressing. Upload your project files securely today with a free trial of ProjectManager. You’ll immediately see your project status with a real-time dashboard and determine where you can truly add more value to your org.