I was sitting in church this weekend listening to the sermon and our pastor about the visions and goals of our church – one of those things he does every year about this time as summer and vacations end and it’s back to work and school for everyone. He mentioned Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keeps the law, happy is he.”
Immediately, I thought…wow…that applies so well to everything we do. And yes, corny as I am, it even applies to project management and the way we manage our teams, customers and the engagement as a whole.
The Project Vision
Vision. We must have vision. As I discussed in “Begin with the End in Mind,” we must understand where it is we’re going and how we’re trying to get there so that we may guide the project and the skilled resources that we’ve been charged with so that we can enjoy a successful engagement.
It’s easy in life and when managing a project to get bogged down with the day-to-day activities that we’re trying to stay on top of. Fires confront us on our projects more days than not and tend to throw us our daily, weekly and monthly targets. Those fires can potentially throw us off the course we set for the project in the first place.
Risks become realized, resources get moved from our projects, and our customers change courses on us with a big change order, scope change or major shift of priorities. Stress sets in and, if we’re not grounded in our direction for the project, we can easily get bumped off course.
I’m not saying anything earth-shaking here, I know. We don’t always take enough time to look ahead at where the project is going and keep our thoughts and understanding on what’s important for the engagement, our customer and our organization. And if we fail to do that, think how far off course our team can get - the team that looks to us for guidance, approval and on-going assignment (and motivation).
It takes a special kind of leader to remain grounded in what’s important and stay the course. You’ve heard the term “fake it till you make it”, I’m sure. That applies here. As project managers, we’re ordained leaders. We may not be great leaders yet…may not even be very good at it at times, but we’re all learning along the way.
We often have to improvise and “fake it till we make it.” The key to this, in my opinion, is one of those characteristics of a PM that I mentioned…stubbornness. If you tend not to let yourself and your decision-making be swayed by the daily occurrences that go on around you…the bumps in the road…then you’ve already won half the battle. Because when you’re stubborn like that, you have a better chance to stay the course on the project and remained focused on the end goal.
We have to adjust mid-course – it nearly always happens – but adjust with that end goal still clearly in mind and then the success of the project overall is still not put in jeopardy. Remember, the customer doesn’t always know what they want and we can’t act on their every whim…we’re the experts and we must guide both our team and our project to the end goal.