UCSC Extension Project Leadership and Communication Student
There are many ways to skin a cat. May be (haven’t done any, personally, for the record). There are good ways and better ways to skin a cat. Probably. There are more than one ways to lead a project? Of course. There are good and better ways to lead a ‘useful’ (by that, we mean a project that is aligned with the goals of an organization)? For sure!
So, what are they? What are the leadership and communication best practices to ensure that the project is aligned with the goals of an organization? Here are 7 ways to align your project with your organization.
Know thy context and environment: No project exists in a vacuum nor is useful if it does not support the goal of the organization. Therefore, it behooves you to know the vision and the goal of an organization: No brainer. Gotta know what you are dealing with. What is your organization’s goal? What is the vision statement?
Know thyself: Next, what is your project’s goal? What is your project vision statement? If you don’t have one, you should. If you do have one, does it contradict or support the vision of your organization? If it supports the organizational goal, great. If not, why? Is it a ‘skunk project’? Is it a corporate attempt at ‘rebranding’? Knowing the reasons helps you communicate and advocate for your project.
Write it down: It is important to document the project vision. Write it down and write a description of how this vision supports your organization. It will help you when you need to advocate your project to your staff and your organization.
Ask ask ask: Ask questions of your colleagues and your supervisors. Find out how they perceive your project and how it fits into the organization. You will then also find allies and help when you need them.
Listen listen listen: Listen carefully for what is said, as well as what is NOT said. And no, you shouldn’t be paranoid. No one is out to get you. But pay attention to the little clues that might help refining the project vision and execution. For example, if your user constantly refers to “how we used to do ‘this’”, may be you should ask: “would you prefer if we incorporate ‘this’ into the design?”
Speak speak speak: Make transparencies and openness your project culture. Invite people to your status meetings. Send them information (more than what they possibly would want to see), when requested (or even when NOT requested). Obviously, you wouldn’t want to be a pest, or flooding everyone’s inbox with junk mail. But you should advertise your project and convey the sense of transparency.
Making the round trip: Don’t be afraid to make changes to your project vision. If it doesn’t fit into your organization, then you need to evaluate your project and see if it indeed needs to revise itself. You should not run a project that doesn’t contribute to your organization’s bottom line.
In summary, A project manager’s job is to make sure a project is run successfully: a project that is aligned with the organizational goal is a good project. And you will need to do a lot of talking and listening to make that happen.