Bad news. You have spent years getting good at project management. You thought that project management skills would prepare you to lead. I am about to tell you that project management is not the same as leadership. And perhaps more disheartening, that project management without leadership is like engineering without good taste – you get something, but it usually isn’t good.
Let me offer a concrete example. A project manager we know had been given the responsibility of training personnel worldwide in new sales methods and tools. She created the training. She made sure attendance was compulsory. And at the end of the effort – field personnel were resistant and frustrated. There was very low adoption and little discernible business impact.
The training was well-conceived, designed and delivered. The processes were clearly presented. The tools were powerful and useful. So, what went wrong?
Some might argue that the failure in this situation was a change management failure. It was. But I think the real failure happened much earlier. The project manager thought her responsibility was to develop and deliver training. She tracked deliverables. Managed to budget. Stayed on time. She checked every box – and was done.
Her real job was to drive adoption that could lead to measurable improvements in sales force effectiveness and productivity.
But she assumed her job was to inform, so she created materials that were informative. If she had understood her job was to change behavior, she might have produced a broader set of activities and changed the tone of her communications to drive interest, understanding and enthusiasm. Because it is those three things that lead to adoption and improved business performance.
That is the difference between project management and leadership. Business leaders focus on business outcomes. Project management, in its worst form, checks boxes.
Here is a single technique that can really help: Set business outcomes for each of the workstreams you are driving.
Business Outcome: Increase field operations capability.
New Operations: Process Definition
New Operations: Training Materials
New Operations: Communication Plan
New Operations: Communications
We have used this planning technique to great effect with projects that vary from small teams to projects involving hundreds of people.
When you are clear about the business outcomes each deliverable drives, you clarify the purpose of each deliverable, increase executive alignment and provide a way for measuring whether or not you managed the project – or helped lead change in the overall business.