Another great skill of department project leaders (the position formerly known as “accidental” project manager) is to be outcome focused. What this means is that a project is not done for the sake of a project; a project is done for the benefit or value that it will bring to the business. It’s a project leader’s responsibility to ensure that goal is met.
How, by having situational awareness with regards to their project and being able to communicate this to others. Situational awareness is knowing what’s going on with your project. You know where things stand, what’s next, and what’s in the way of getting there.
Think about it this way. We use situational awareness all the time when we are driving. We know where our car is on the road (hopefully), what exits and highways to take, and what’s in the way of us getting there. You and your departmental project leaders need to know the same information for a project. Where is it going, what’s been accomplished, what’s next, and what’s in the way?
A great tool for departmental project leaders to demonstrate situational awareness and be outcome focused is the classic 4-blocker template that looks like this:
Most project leaders have this information in their heads, but the trick is writing it down to communicate with others. This simple format allows them to do this without administratively over-burdening someone who barely has enough time to do their day job, let alone keep up with putting a report together.
Let’s look at this template in the context of planning a west coast trip in the US.
- Upcoming Milestones - These are the big cities or tourist sites. For example, milestones would be to visit Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon, Los Angeles, and then San Francisco.
- Key Achievements - Break down the larger milestones into what has been accomplished. For example, ‘went on a hike in the Grand Canyon’ or ‘visited a film studio in Hollywood’.
- Next Steps - Includes imminent tasks that need to be done, such as ‘make reservations at Scoma’s in San Francisco for dinner’ and ‘leave in time to catch a flight home’.
- RIsks and Decisions Needed - Identify what’s in the way of making it back home safely. Maybe, ‘ran out of money in Las Vegas; make a decision to cut a leg of the trip or get a loan to cover the gap.’
That’s as simple as it can be. This report takes a departmental project leader 10-15 minutes to update each week. But, it can make such a big difference to the team and managers who need to know this information.
What does this have to do with being outcome focused? All that is needed to keep a project on track is included on this one-page document. And, the sooner a project gets done, the sooner it will start delivering the intended outcomes!
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