Using our B2B case study as our working example, Terry (VP of worldwide sales and operations of Buslog Technologies) sent Bob (VP of sales and operations at CSM) an e-mail stating that they would like to implement an automated business-to-business processing system using CSM's ordering systems. Since Buslog is one of CSM's most important customers, this e-mail caught Bob's attention. Terry also mentioned that they would provide a software license for CSM to use and would be willing to work with CSM's technical and sales organization to implement this project. Terry invited Bob and his company's executive team to attend a presentation by Buslog Technologies to its primary vendors to ask for their participation in reducing supply chain inefficiencies. Gary (CIO) and Bob attended the presentation.
After the presentation, Bob and Gary agreed that they would like to participate in the Phase I implementation and that CSM should be committed to this project. Mark (CSM's CEO) scheduled an executive team meeting to discuss the project. Mark asked Gary and Bob to work together to come up with a short presentation of what the project could mean to CSM and why they should take it on. In their presentation Gary and Bob pointed out that this B2B project would be the beginning of a strategic customer integration initiative. This customer integration initiative would eventually include implementing an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that could, in turn, yield many additional benefits to the company.
In summary, Bob and Gary proposed that, if the executive team selected this project, the project mission would be to develop automated B2B processing between the CSM and Buslog ordering systems.
A project leader's first task is to ensure that a project to be undertaken aligns with the parent organization. This consists of several activities, the first of which is to assess the culture, teamwork, risk tolerance, communications, decision-making, and trust levels in the overall organization to determine how capable the overall organization is in supporting project leadership. It is important to understand strengths and weaknesses and to develop ways to improve upon past performance. Apendix A contains a project leadership assessment tool that is designed to assist in analyzing and evaluating project leadership at the organizational level.
Effective project leadership requires proper attitudes, skills, and competencies. It is a willingness to take personal risk—to show genuine concern for the company, client, project, and everyone involved. The good news is that most of the skills and competencies required to be a successful project leader can be learned and that coaching and mentoring are instrumental in a leader's development.
The individual, team, and organizational aspects of leadership are interdependent. Senior management support establishes a foundation for leadership success, but it is the application of leadership characteristics at the individual and team levels that makes it truly effective.
The assessment questionnaire provides a self-scored assessment of the state of project leadership at the organizational level. This is not designed to answer all the questions that need to be asked for effective project leadership, but rather to provide an indicator for further action.
Once it is determined that the organization is ready to support project leadership, the next step in alignment is to identify potential projects. Ideally, all leaders in an organization are continually searching for potential projects as part of their everyday work.
The third step is to assess each potential project. Some large organizations may have extensive assessment procedures, while some small organizations may have almost none. Regardless of the size of the organization or the complexity of the project, a few key questions should be asked to determine if a potential project might align well with the parent organization's priorities:
What is the project's vision?
What value does the potential project offer the organization?
Can the project be understood and articulated at different levels (as part of the larger organization, as a system itself, and as a combination of its parts)?
What level of human and other resources will the project potentially require?
What is the project's priority in comparison with other projects?
How is work within the project prioritized?
How will the parent organization's culture help or hinder the work of this project and vice versa?
CSM's top officers acknowledged that several benefits could come from this project and that it was consistent with a company philosophy of partnering with customers. However, the leaders did not spend enough time assessing whether the company had and could use the human and other resources necessary to complete this project, nor did they assess the impact this project would have on CSM's overall mission, vision, and goals. Many projects when considered in isolation appear to be a good fit; however, wise leaders consider potential projects in comparison with each other when making alignment decisions.
The automated B2B processing project under consideration at CSM appears to be a good fit in that it has the enthusiastic support of one of the company's major customers and will have many other benefits to CSM. The executive team seems excited and willing to work hard to help the project succeed. Direct benefits to CSM include better shipment notice information and reduced product lead time, both of which will have a positive impact on customer service. Since the project appears to be a good fit, CSM's project leaders are now ready to proceed into their second responsibility, which is to perform a risk assessment.
A Project Leader Needs to:
Accept the strengths and weaknesses of both the parent company's organization and this potential project
Have the courage to assess how well this project will actually help the parent company achieve its goals
Exercise the wisdom to accept or reject this project accordingly.