It is said that a project manager should think and act like a CEO of a small enterprise, that enterprise being the project itself. How should a project manager behave when appointed CEO of MyProject Inc.?
- If you have a habit of committing, then you will feel responsible for effectively managing the resources (money, people, and materials) entrusted to you.
- If you have a habit of planning, you will know better than anyone about the vision, values, short- and long-term objectives, potential threats and opportunities, relationships with third parties, process assets, quality standards, etc.
These two habits (committing and planning) are highly important. However, it may be more important for a CEO to be someone who gets things done:
- CEOs do not do the work themselves, they effectively delegate to managers (not to go-fers). It is not effective to dictate each and every action or to go into too much technical detail. Any effective delegation has 5 steps: 1) agree on the desired results; 2) indicate guidelines or frameworks; 3) identify available resources; 4) define the oversight and assessment mechanisms; and 5) clarify the consequences of good and bad performance.
- But others do not do everything. What will you spend most of your time doing? To communicating in an “executive” manner. Operational level communication, steered towards getting things done, should not be overloaded with details. As the CEO of MyProject Inc., when you speak at the “shareholders’ meeting”, your messages have to be clear, synthetic, information-based and factual. You summarise what has happened in the past and predict what is going to happen in the near future. Steering committee members ask high level questions that you have already anticipated. Your answers are straight to the point.
- Last, but not least, the ugliest part of being a CEO is that mistakes are costly: you can be accused, demoted, made destitute, even prosecuted! Some mistakes are yours, some are from others. To protect yourself from other's mistakes, the only thing you can do is implement “expiation management”. Maybe it will never be necessary, but it is not a bad practice to keep an up-to-date record of project milestones, the decisions taken, who took them, when, whose idea they were, what was recommended, the risks assumed, etc.
In our field of project management, there are many well-known techniques to produce an “executive communication”. Here we are just three examples:
- Communicating on cost and schedule variations could be based on the standard EVM (Earned Value Management).
- Scope control can be graphically expressed on a WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) diagram, with the percentage of completion on control accounts.
- Status reports could be institutionalised across the organisation. Recipients would appreciate the use of dashboards and RAG indicators (Red: the project is now off-plan and drastic action is needed; Amber: substantial or corrective action is required; Green: the project is on-track and likely to meet expectations).
As far as “expiation management” is concerned; it is highly effective to keep a record of risks, on the one hand, and a record of project milestones, on the other – in other words, a project log