Todd C. Williams, Founder & President, eCameron, Inc.

Turning vision into profitability takes equal parts of leadership and management.   Understanding which parts to use is the challenge. As leaders we set the vision and define the corporate culture. If we do not imbue the qualities that build trust within our company and with our customers, growth will be elusive.  Nowhere is this more evident than when your company’s capabilities need to change and you start a corporate wide initiative. In these projects everyone must be aligned, communication and process is critical, yet you need to be innovative and push the envelope.

Nearly 30 years of dealing with companies large and small have given me a few lessons on the balance we must achieve in reaching for that new goal.

Managing Process and Attaining Compliance

Management is the easier task. We direct and we remain accountable. However, it limits our company’s (not to mention our own) growth.  Management is about applying processes, attaining compliance, and measuring performance against goals.

Hiring Expertise. Bringing in a person to fill a void is wrong. It is better to do without than to endorse mediocrity. Always hire the right people.

Applying Process. Process compliance is at the core of management. Properly applying process provides our customers with consistency, never bureaucracy. Process stifles creativity. This is a good thing, look what innovative accounting did for us.

When People And Process Go Awry
The cry “We have always done it that way” indicates two problems—one with a process another with a person. 

Caution with Technology. Technology provides consistency and efficiency. Never apply without first having the proper people and processes in place; otherwise, technology will screw things up quicker and far more efficiently.

Managing the Goal. Define and manage scope, document decisions, and give the users what they need—question what they want.

Minding the Constraints. Scope, schedule, and budget, pick two and only two. The project manager will tell you the third. Trying to edict all three is the definition of a failure waiting to happen.

Learning to Compromise. You will never reach perfection. You and your customer are going to have to compromise. It is incumbent upon you to train your employees in the science and art of negotiation. 

Building Innovative Cultures

To excel in business we have to be innovative. Projects, by definition (a temporary endeavor to create a unique project or service) have to be innovative.  This requires building a culture around leadership and self-direction.

Maintaining Objectivity. Too many project managers are overly passionate about their projects. Rather than rooting for their project like high-school cheerleaders, they need to maintain objectivity. They must be passionately dispassionate and determine what to amplify and what to discard.

Fostering Teams. Teams find answers.  Learn from them. Talk to them. Work with them. Sponsor and support them. Communicate with them. However, never do the work for them. Leaders let others lead and support them when they stumble.  Let them make mistakes so they can learn and grow. Management means you know how; leadership means they know how.

Forgetting Blame. A culture of blame is the fastest way to destroy morale, teamwork, and trust.  It is an infectious disease that creates finger pointing and secrets. Do not search for blame. Once you have found it will only give you fleeting pleasure, there is still a problem to fix.

Culture Counts
No blame, no shame—build trusting teams of self-directed people who take pride in their work

Heeding Denial. Before any problem can be addressed, you have to first admit it exists. An open culture devoid of blame, asking for help and open to learning will avoid nearly every catastrophic failure. It is an integral part of any innovative culture.

Focusing on Data. Relying on data and avoiding analysis paralysis is the foundation of good decisions.   Numbers are truthful little bastards, squeeze them hard enough and they will tell you the truth. They cannot lie; it is integral to their job.

Turning Visions into Profits

New strategies mean new business capabilities which beget projects. That is how your company grows and survives. Your time to market relies on your company’s ability to run projects efficiently and deliver results in the shortest possible time allowing you to achieve your desired ROI. These eleven traits help build a lean culture focused on speed of implementation. They will continue to be your focus; the challenge being establishing them throughout your organization. As the leader you must continually adjust and apply the right mixture of innovation and process. The right balancing of leadership and management will grow your people, your company, and your profits.


About the Author

Todd C. Williams is the founder and president of eCameron, Inc. (www.ecaminc.com), they help companies make their vision profitable. He has over 25 years of experience in recovering failing projects, preventing their failure, and applying those lessons to help other organizations fulfill their strategic goals. He has helped his clients through strategic planning facilitation, setting up and running operations, IT leadership, and as an expert witness. He is the author of Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure and can be found on LinkedIn (linkedin.com/in/backfromred/), Twitter (twitter.com/backfromred), Facebook (facebook.com/BackFromRed), by phone: +1 (360) 834-7361, or email: todd.williams@ecaminc.com

Comments

Keith Marks's picture
"Todd, your article should be a "must read" for every leadership role in every organization. Your points are so focused, and simple to understand, they should resonate widely. Excellent Blog Article!"
Michael Krigsman's picture
Todd is one of the foremost experts in the world on IT transformation and using enterprise technology to drive business improvement. On the surface, the points he makes are simple and straightforward. At the same time, however, many organizations have trouble operationalizing these goals and converting them to practical project plans. Todd's credibility is important because he presents these issues with the full weight and authority of one who has been there and done that. I hope people reading take time to study the words and find ways to put them into practice. The results of such an effort are absolutely worth the investment of time and energy required to do so.
Samad Aidane's picture
Todd, Great article. I love your advice about never apply technology without first having the proper people and processes in place; otherwise, technology will screw things up quicker and far more efficiently. It is impossible today to implement strategy without taking into account the technology changes that need to support it. Yet, often today planning for the technology changes necessary to implement a strategy is treated as an add-on or an after-thought to strategy development. No wonder then that leaders are surprised when they discover they don't have the people on the grounds or the processes in place to support their well formulated strategy. There is no better example of this unpleasant reality than what is currently in the news about challenges faced in the implementation of the affordable health care law. Regardless of which side of the issues involved you find yourself on, it is clear that the rocky implementation of the technical infrastructre the support he strategy can actually undermine the entire effort. Great advise to exercise caution with technology. Samad Aidane GuerrillaProjectManagement.com
Rich Maltzman's picture
Vision into Value - Ideas into Reality. Todd, A while ago there was a very lengthy LinkedIn discussion asking people to define project management in 3 words, no more or less. The first thing to note was that PMs need a lesson in basic math because many of the entries were 2, 4 or even 5 words long. We at least got the math right. Our answer was: Ideas Into Reality. It connects with the theme of EarthPM, LLC, a two-person consulting and training firm, which has been promoting the intersection of PM and Sustainability for many years. Our point is that it is the discipline of project management that takes ideas (vision, if you will) to reality (value, if you will). And it's important, from our point of view, that the value is long-lasting and has the attributes of a triple bottom line. So, for example, a coffeemaker which has non-recyclable pods or cups may be successful economically, but if those cups (tens of billions of them) are in landfills, that value is not necessarily a "good" value for the planet, nor even for that organization (if it doesn't align with their vision). In any case, we applaud your discussion and hope that people will look at it from these two angles: 1. Project Management as critical to bringing "Value" to "Vision" 2. Vision and Value both include triple-bottom-line, sustainability-oriented thinking What do you think? What does the group think? Cheers Rich Maltzman, PMP co-founder, EarthPM, LLC http://earthpm.com rich@earthpm.com
Todd Williams's picture
Rich, unfortunately I missed the post you mentioned. I would have cheated. My response would have been leadership, Leadership leadership. Project management has devolved into management, leadership has been pushed aside. To run a company we need PMs who: Lead their subordinates. Treating people with dignity and respect. Giving them a purpose and the opportunity for self direction. Lead their leaders. Giving them the tasks and asking for assistance as needed. Ensure projects delivers value. Projects are where vision transforms to value and you are taking that to a slightly higher level of ensure the value is at a broader level than just profit. Too many times project managers are pigeon-holed into running the project. They are doing management at it's worst--compliance. This drives them to advocate for the project instead of being "passionately dispassionate" and ensuring that the executives understand how well it is meeting the corporate goals and strategy. It is incumbent upon us to make sure that projects managers understand the value of their projects and how they relate to the corporate goals. They must be rewarded on achieving the goals. The end goal may be very different than the original scope, schedule, and budget. Where you are going is to have them question the goals and ensure they are sustainable. That would extend my concepts to the next level. Rather than the PM, I would suggest that be pushed into the corporate strategy and goals. It make it easier for the PM to achieve.

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