Breaking Down the Fourth Wall on Project Management

Imagine your manager gives you a new project to manage and you are required to develop a strategy for the next year. A few other requirements are identified and you are sailing along great until it happens. You realize that the program requirements have now put you in a “box” where all the parameters are in a fixed, non-flexible position making it a challenge to move forward. What do you do, especially if the requirements create barriers instead of bridges to your goal?

Sometimes the challenge to starting a new task lies in the ability to see beyond the basic scope of the assignment. For example, maybe your group has a fixed set of templates for project plans based on historical data. While they may provide a spring board to a new endeavor, they may not be the best tools if they’ve never been revised in the past five years. Consequently, it may require you to develop new tools and resources to manage ground-breaking endeavors.

Also, when some project managers receive a new task, they feel beholden to manage the task by only using the processes their boss outlined for them. That is a nice “check the box mentality” but it will not always yield the results you may seek, especially if the resources provided are antiquated.  A good program manager will take a step back before just jumping into the fray, assess the situation from all angles and then develop a solid strategy. Sometimes that includes having the courage to break down that fourth wall of project management to take a few risks.

Take the time to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) to your project by collaborating with internal partners who are willing to see the “big picture perspective.” I’ve learned that leveraging a solid SWOT analysis may help to increase your awareness and acceptance of issues and innovation in project management.

Lastly, there may be an unwritten office rule that that staff may only use canonical documents for all projects as some sort of tribute to the original creator of all things SOP in your agency. This is a direct path to stifle creativity and sink your project plan. Moreover, allegiance to the team is one thing; however projects cannot be managed effectively by tradition. One of the great things about project management is having the ability to explore the unknown using a strategy that acknowledges potential variables, troubleshoots issues that will impact your deadlines.

Tracey Batacan is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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