Monday, January 24, 2011

Key People: Unlocking the Mysteries - part #2

Project management sounds simple. Develop a strategy. Agree on a goal. Create a plan. Define roles, dates, metrics and responsibilities. Then, execute the plan, and review progress on a regular basis. Once completed, evaluate the plan and define the lessons learned.

For most senior executives, project management is like the instructions on a shampoo bottle, namely “wash, rinse, repeat.” They do it every day with multiple projects. After a while, it becomes an unconscious habit.

But key people do something that is most unique and often missed or misunderstood by average or mediocre players in the midst of project management. The key players know how to delegate well. The others do not.

When it comes to delegation, we need to remember that it is the transferring of authority and responsibility from one person to another in order to carry out a specific activity. Furthermore, the best understand that there are three levels to delegation when they do it. Level-One Delegation allows direct control to do whatever needs to be done as long as it is in full alignment with the strategic nexus of the organization. Level-Two Delegation includes the ability to change certain factors to achieve the desired results but the individual or team has limited choices which have been discussed at the time of delegation. In essence, Level Two is delegation with defined parameters to action. Finally, Level-Three Delegation includes the opportunity to generate ideas about how to achieve the desired results but no control over how the work gets done.

Key people recognize and understand these differences but what sets them apart is that they regularly help those who have received the responsibility to achieve these goals by taking very specific steps. First, they make sure those who are being delegated to understand the problem that needs to be solved. This sounds simple but it is not. Key people remember that awareness is not understanding.

Second, key people know what needs to get done, i.e. the desired outcome, and can often state it in a concise and specific manner, usually in 35 words or less.

Third, key people check to make sure those who will do the work have the authority to do it successfully. They know that commitment without understanding is a problem. They also know that responsibility without choice is still a problem.

Fourth, key people check to make sure that all involved have the knowledge and skills to be successful. As Ken Blanchard shared years ago, it is not worth training a fish to climb a tree and act like a squirrel or to train a squirrel to swim and act like a fish. Having the right knowledge and skills make a huge difference.

Fifth, key people also make sure all involved know how to measure progress and/or success. Key people recognize that being able to gauge your progress builds confidence amongst the followers and the leaders.

Sixth, key people help all involved realize the difference a project will make once it is completed and completed well. Knowing how our work will impact others makes us feel needed and in this economy it is good to know our work matters to someone else.

Project management is a daily process. But for key people, it is a thoughtful one done with great care and discernment. This week pay attention to delegation. Strive to do it better than ever before.

Geery Howe, M.A., Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change - Morning Star Associates # 319 - 643 - 2257

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