Tag Archive: big picture

Getting Out of the Weeds to See the Forest

August 4th, 2017
Turning Everyday Interactions into Profitable Opportunities

I’ve been working with several clients recently who are interested in “getting out of the weeds” so that they can “see the forest”. In a few cases, we’ve talked about strategy and reviewed key information about customers, demand, supply and financials. Although there were benefits to each piece (including being able to make decisions such as in-sourcing/outsourcing, equipment purchases, lease renegotiation, and hiring), it was no comparison to the value of being able to see the BIG PICTURE.   

See the big picture, the forest not the trees!

Similar to driving to work every day and not remembering how you got there, we are often caught in the weeds of day-to-day execution. These events can be vital to the business but we can miss the larger forest by never taking a step back. For example, we could be focused on improving a process like order entry for a specific customer with an eye to making it ‘perfect or ideal’ and miss the point – why are we entering orders for this customer in the first place? It is strategically necessary? How does this step affect others along the process?

One tip to implement this week: 

Seeing the big picture is a sometimes a unique talent; however, you also can deliberately set out to improve your vision of the big picture. Why not dedicate time this week to a few simple tasks? Start by thinking about these questions:

  • Why am I performing this process or step?  
  • Can I see beyond the next step? What is the end goal?  
  • Once you’re thinking more about the forest, take a step back to observe. Have you been “seeing” what is really going on and how what you’re doing fits in?  

Note: seeing the bigger picture isn’t a solo activity. Collaborate with your peers, employees, managers, customers, suppliers, and trusted advisers where appropriate. Be on the lookout for this result – the end goal. Have you ever noticed that if you plan to buy a car, suddenly you see many more cars on the road that look good? Or, if you are having a baby, suddenly babies appear out of the woodwork everywhere you go? The same concept applies as you look for the big picture. Soon, it will emerge – and you will emerge from the weeds.   

 

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The Million Dollar Project Manager

May 31st, 2017
million dollar project leader

Project managers drive initiative results yet they aren’t often treated with the respect nor given the support they need to thrive.

In our experience working with manufacturers and distributors from small, family-owned businesses to medium-sized, private equity backed companies to global large, complex organizations, projects account for 80% of the improvement. There are projects to improve efficiencies, reduce inventory, grow sales, expand into new regions, consolidate operations and the list goes on. Thus, if we must rely on projects for business growth and profitability, should we think about our project managers as million-dollar project managers?

Most likely the answer is yes. However, in our experience, project managers are not often treated with much respect. Oftentimes, they are seen as lower level resources responsible for executing initiatives, coordinating resources and reporting progress up the chain. But, is this how we should treat our resources who can have such a far-reaching impact?

Let’s think about the reach of project managers’ impact. There are several key points to consider:

  1. Impact on resources:Undoubtedly, the number one concern from all levels of leadership relates back to resources. There are “too many,” “not enough,” “not the right skills,” “not allocated properly” and so on. Thus, anyone who has a significant impact on resources should be considered valuable.
  2. Daily decisions on which tasks gain priority:Similar to the impact on resources, determining the priority of tasks is crucial. As a project manager, there is a constant need to prioritize among tasks, collaborate with departments, etc.
  3. Ingrained in the business:Project managers are in the “thick of things” on a daily basis. In order to complete tasks and achieve results, project managers are involved in a wide array of activities. They are familiar with what is working and what isn’t working in each department as it relates to project tasks. There are very few projects which are confined to a singular department.
  4. Communicate across the organization:In order to complete their tasks, the project manager must communicate and collaborate across departments and layers of the organization. Since high-quality resources are hard to come by, it is vital to keep communications in a positive light.
  5. Impact on profit:Certainly, almost every project relates back to profitability in some respect. Whether we are growing the business, increasing margins, automating key processes or improving efficiencies, there is a direct impact on profit.

So, since it is clear that project managers have a substantial impact on business success, it is wise to think about how to maximize their performance. As a metaphor, the million-dollar project manager is appealing since there is often million-dollar impacts. Thus, what should we do to ensure project managers are treated more like million-dollar project managers?

  1. Provide clarity of the big picture:Project managers will be more invested in their projects if they understand the impact on the organization. Make sure to provide clarity of the big picture and how they fit in.
  2. Give them discretion:There have been countless studies as to what is most successful in keeping valuable employees (like your million-dollar project managers), and the net conclusion is that employees want some ability to affect the outcome of their work. We must give them some level of discretion to make decisions and guide their projects within reasonable parameters.
  3. Recognize small wins:Managing projects can be a slog into details with little to show for it. Find small wins to celebrate. Make a big deal of the importance and tie it back to the project manager and their team.
  4. Support their decisions:There is nothing more important than supporting your project managers. Of course, providing constructive feedback is essential; however, when in the heat of the battle, it is vital to support your project manager’s decisions. Without this support at critical junctures, the project will suffer, and the project manager will become dismayed.
  5. Promote the project:Promoting the project throughout the organization can do quite a lot for its chances of success. How do you get resources to want to join your project team? Start by being attractive. This oftentimes goes back to how compelling the project seems. Make it so! Do you think the best leaders’ projects for improving margins happen to be more enticing than the average leaders’ projects of the same type? No; perception becomes a reality.

Since projects will have a substantial effect on your customer loyalty and bottom line – the two most critical aspects of any business – it is worthwhile taking a few steps back to think about the project managers driving these results. If you think about their impact, a million dollars might not be sufficient. Therefore, start thinking about your project managers as though they have a million-dollar impact and results will follow.

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to strengthen your Eagle Eye:

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Keeping the Big Picture in Mind

December 4th, 2015
project strategy

It’s natural to get lost in the day-to-day project details. Schedule weekly reminders to make sure team members are keeping sight of the big picture.

I’ve been focused on an ERP system go-live this week with one of my key clients, and it reminds me that it is easy to go down the rabbit hole in details and forget the big picture. Whether we are implementing a system, racing around to satisfy customer orders due to growth or service problems, rolling out new and improved processes and programs, or something else, remember to take a step back to keep the big picture in mind. For example, if you question your current workload, how much of it would be focused on what is essential to the big picture? Is it possible you’ve gotten off track? Of course! It happens all the time – and no one is immune!

Recently, I was working with a client on a project. We agreed on our strategy upfront. Then we got lost in the details. There was debate and confusion surrounding the details. This alone is not a note of concern as debate over how to best handle details can be productive and end up at a better result.  However, in this case, we got so lost in details that a strategy change was made without the full knowledge of the core team – it was well-intentioned but occurred without clarity and alignment.

It turned out that the strategy change had complexities (of course) and so frustration resulted. When talking about details, we each thought we were on the same page of the strategy but we weren’t. Somehow, we made our way through the details to a successful end result according to the new strategy even though we were still on two different pages. The new strategy was “better” from several respects but it created diversions from other critical tasks. Thus if some level of success resulted from this level of confusion, imagine what could have been achieved if we had taken a step back to review the big picture!

Hindsight is always 20/20 but the smart executives learn from all experiences.  In this case, remembering to check the big picture and sync up would have been a great benefit. The great news is that it is easy to turn around – schedule time in your calendar. Ask your team members to put reminders into the weekly process. Why not have a “win” that generates 10 fold the level of success by following one simple rule – remember your big picture.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to strengthen your Eagle Eye:

Put Your Eagle Eye on What’s Key to Success-Leadership

Project Failure: How to Avoid Top Causes