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Project Management in an Agency Model: Acting as a Steward (Part 5)

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Another thing worth mentioning about project management in an agency model; things tend to get busy during Q1!  After quite a few weeks of business-imposed hiatus, I’m back to finishing up this post.

To get us caught up, in reviewing Project Management in an Agency Model we’ve covered the opportunity available to project managers, what it means to manage the project experience and how knowing the business impacts your ability to add value to your client, your firm and your own brand/career.  In this installment, we’ll talk about what it means to act as a steward to your client and your firm.

A quick check of www.dictionary.com defines ‘steward’ as “a person who manages another’s property or financial affairs.”  This is your role as the project manager.  You are responsible for advising your client on how to best manage their project investment to successfully solve their business problems.  By so doing, you are also helping manage your client’s reputation within their firm and, depending on the scope of the project, within their industry.

As trusted advisor and steward to your client, the best approach is to treat their problems, their investment and their reputation as if they were yours.  Your knowledge of the product or service you are implementing, as well as your understanding of their business and industry puts you in a unique position to help your clients achieve success.  Partner with them, taking the attitude that this is also your project and while you are aligned with your client, their interests and yours are one in the same.

Likewise, you are a steward and advisor to your own firm.  As noted previously, every word you speak or write, every conversation, every meeting, even how you hang up the phone at the end of a conference call builds on your firm’s brand and reputation.  As with your client, treat your firm’s brand and reputation as your own.

The same is true with your firm’s money.  As the project manager, you have an opportunity to drive profitability (especially in a fixed fee model) by managing your project in such a way as to make the best use out of every hour spent.  By managing your project efficiently, you not only maximize the output from the team but you can also free up enough time to allow team resources to focus on other billable work.

You also are in a good position to leverage the firm’s primary investment – talent.  How you manage your project team, how you deal with conflicts and issues internally, all help brand you, your PMO team and your delivery organization within the firm.  By focusing on making not only your project, but everyone associated with the project successful, you contribute to making your firm a great place to work.  This is how you can help keep your firm’s top talent WITH YOUR FIRM.

Ultimately, the best thing you can bring to your clients and your firm is your solid commitment to uphold and live out your values as a project management professional.  Acting as a steward and trusted advisor makes you effective at delivering on your specific tactical objectives, but also makes you a major strategic asset to your firm in retaining both clients and talent.  Act as a steward, focusing on making your peers and clients successful.

© 2011, Mark E. Calabrese

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“Should-hood”

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A friend of mine out in Baltimore used to tell me, “Should-hood leads to Shit-hood”.  This is particularly applicable to those of us in management roles.  Whether you’re managing a project, a team or even your own life, focusing on the ‘should’ can be a good thing or a bad thing.

 “Should-hood” – the mindset of focusing on what should be – isn’t bad in the right context.  Focusing on what ‘should be’ is how we apply our core values to our own words and actions.  ‘Should’ is a very powerful mindset…..when applied to oneself.  The problem comes when we focus on what ‘should  be’ when it comes to the words and actions of others.

 There are countless factors that impact everything we do and while we have varying amounts of influence over each of these factors, rarely do we have control of them.  The good news is that there is one element in every situation over which we have 100% control – ourselves.  The bad news is that we often focus on those elements that, even on our best day, we can only hope to influence….which inevitably leads to “Shit-hood” – that terrible feeling that nothing is as it should be and that life and work are hopeless. 

 So what to do?:

  •  Accept the fact that you can only hope to influence anything or anyone that isn’t you.  Even if you hold a gun to someone’s head and tell them to start dancing, they can always say “screw you – shoot me.” 
  • Instead, focus your efforts on the elements that are 100% within your control – your own words and actions
  • With this fact in mind, work to observe and listen to others to gain an understanding of what IS
  • With an understanding and acceptance of what IS, focus your energy on what you can do, say or write to influence those elements of your work that you need to manage in order to be successful.

 Ultimately, “should” is a word best used when looking in the mirror.  Obsessing on what ‘should be’ when dealing with others will provide you countless ways to be frustrated and unhappy.  Focus your energy on those elements of every situation that are 100% within your control – your own words and actions – and avoid ‘Shit-hood’.  It’s not that nice a neighborhood anyway.

© 2011, Mark E. Calabrese

Technology-Imposed Hiatus

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Apologies to anyone following my blog, wondering why there haven’t been any recent posts.  My motherboard died on my Sony Vaio.  I took my laptop to Abt (for those of you who don’t live in Chicago, Abt is the electronics toy store for adults – let’s face it, it’s mostly for guys, as we like things that plug in, light up and make noise), as I have an extended service contract with them.  At first they told me they’d put a 2-day rush on the part.  Then a few days later they told me it would be 7-10 days.  THEN they told me it would be a few more days.  THEN they told me they’d give me a loaner….then I found out that they had receive the motherboard and installed it…..but that the keyboard and mousepad were also fried and that those parts were on order.

Mind you, this all transpired over two weeks and one day.  I’m starting my third week with no laptop, but through the generosity of a good friend, I finally have a loaner.  I’ll be calling Abt later today to find out if the parts will REALLY be in on Tuesday and if I’ll get my laptop back on Wednesday.  In the meantime, I’ll be using this very nice temporary laptop, which is far, far better than typing up all my emails on my Blackberry using my thumbs.

HAT TIP: To Art Hopkins and Steven Getto for the spell check on ‘hiatus’!

“Business Agility” by Mike Hugos

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I’m currently reading Mike HugosBusiness Agility.  I met Mike at a Technology Executive Network (TEN) meeting in Chicago late last year.  The point of the book is to introduce the idea of applying Agility principles to the business world and not just to software development.  Mike makes a good case as to how this can be done but more importantly, he points out WHY it makes sense – especially given how quickly companies must adapt to ever-changing customer needs.  I’m not finished with the book yet, but I think it’s worth the read.

Mike is a very interesting guy, who bills himself as a ‘CIO at Large’ and runs the Center For Systems Innovation (c4si).  We’ve had a few discussions (somewhat convenient that he just lives a few blocks down the street from me) and I have to say that I’m glad I met him.  I owe Phil McEntee, who runs TEN, a ‘thank you’ for the connection.

You can read Mike’s blog here.  Mike also write and blogs at CIO Magazine and Computerworld.