7+ Reasons PM's Don't Improve Efficiency or Productivity

Many of you know I subscribe to the art of stealing and transforming ideas to get new results or perspectives around difficult problems. It's just an axiom of our world, 'nothing is new under the sun.' Did you know they had vending machines in Pompeii? Amazing!

In a recent article on Projects@Work there was an article closely titled to this entry, but it related to CEO's. It was written by Mike Beard who is a pro at Project Management. Mike was writing about the folks in the C-Suite, but let's take a minute and step back to take a closer look at the everyday activities of project leaders and managers. I would contend that Mike's seven reasons falls squarely on the shoulders of just about every person who managed a project or held some kind of management responsibility. At sometime all of us have been party to one or more of these seven reasons. It's not an indictment, it's just the way we are as humans. It is also not an excuse for the behavior to continue. I would hope all of us are working to become better practitioners in our chosen fields and have some ability to look at ourselves candidly to measure how well we perform and act. So let's look at Mikes' Seven Reasons quickly and see how we measure up. Oh and I've added a bonus reason at the end for you.

1. We have met the enemy and he is us: (my paraphrase). Yup, I'm my own worst
enemy. I really don't know what I don't know. Often it takes a junior team member to point this out to me. Keeping up with what is going on around me in both the immediate environment as well as in the broader world takes effort and taking time to look up and away from what I'm normally doing. As a leader if I'm not planning to take time to look beyond the everyday, soon I'll be completely out of step with those around me.

2. They can't see beyond their own desk: "Of course the world is simple, I've got it figured out, haven't you?" It's the syndrome of singular focus on my work and problems and not looking at the complex world we are really responsible for as leaders. Mike chides us to get up, get out, look, listen, ask questions and then engage others in transformational change which reduces waste and promotes efficiency. Did you know your fellow workers hate waste? It's true, really.

3. The Halo Effect: "I was so good at my last job that I must be doing well at this one too." Ahhh the Peter Principle has risen it's ugly head once again. Just because we were good enough to get this position does not mean we will move on and upward, unless we find a way to build a sturdy foundation of support under us. Bringing up someone behind you is the surest way to move on yourself. Oh, and make sure you are being brought along by someone as well.

4. They hide their failures instead of using them to improve the culture: When was the last time you did this? When was the last time someone found you out? Hiding just doesn't work well. If you get the failure out in the open, deal with it as an opportunity for improvement, you get to be seen as a champion overcoming adversity, not a weak leader hiding behind others. Set the tone for transparency and accountability and it will move throughout your organization and beyond.

5. It is so easy to lay off people, reduce costs and make themselves look like a hero for saving the company money: Ben Franklin was right when he penned the famous line, " A penny saved is a penny earned." But that savings isn't always best achieved by cutting costs without looking at what generates the cost in the first place. People are seldom the issue, processes are almost always the culprit of waste and loss of profit. I'd like to suggest a new proverb "A process re-tuned is money in the bank." Letting people perform at their highest level always results in delight for everyone.

6. It's the teams fault: Look above for the answer. It's not the team's fault, it's yours. Own up the issues of wasteful processes and redundant efforts. Fix what is broken and limping before you blame someone below you in the organization to save your hide.

7. 75 percent of the people in leadership positions are either still acting as a subject matter expert (SME) that have moved up or people who are still in transition [in the fog or limbo] to their new leadership role: SME's are great. We need them, just not always in the leadership chair. You should be helping the SME's develop the transformational changes in your organization, not holding on to that for yourself. Champion the changes needed instead of hoarding what you think is the glory. You can get by at first by being in a fog but you have step into leadership quickly or be marginalized and ineffective. As a PM this moves through your team like a virus. Set the expectations quickly for performance before you loose the edge delegated to you.

7+. Not knowing when to get our of our own way: It is a fact, you just aren't good at everything. Learn to delegate. Learn to use others strengths. Offset your weaknesses by surrounding yourself with folks that help everyone succeed. Good leadership isn't about being perfect, it is about enabling others to excel for the benefit of everyone.

 Mike closes by suggesting that if only half of us would change our behavior then 70 percent of the projects in trouble or failing would be dramatically reduced. I concur Mike. Let's all move toward more transparency and accountability in our daily lives. I think you will be surprised at the results. As I always say "Collaboration is the glue of success."

This posting is a part of a series on productivity, management, lean and agile processes. It is a String in the knotty world of wicked problems