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What Is a Project Manager and Why Would I Need One?

What Is a Project Manager and Why Would I Need One?

One of the characteristics of the entrepreneurial life style is overwork. We’re trying to do too much — we do the marketing, we do the sales, we create the product and we do the administration. But first and foremost, we design and build our business. In time and with luck, however, our business will grow until we’re big enough to begin to hire people.

At first, if we’re smart, we begin hiring people to do the things we’re not very good at. And we also hire people to do the things that we’re better off not doing. Things where we can hire someone who is better at the job than we are for less money. In other words, we prioritize and let others do the less valuable tasks.

As our business grows, two phenomena appear. The first is that we as entrepreneurs begin to focus on the strategies around our business. We look for opportunities to grow and threats to avoid. We build our strengths and seek to overcome our weaknesses. And we begin to focus less and less on the day-to-day operation of our business.

The second phenomenon appears as the number of our employees begins to grow beyond seven. Silos appear. Now silos can actually appear even earlier but they are almost inevitable as the organization grows beyond seven. To do most of the day-to-day operation of the company we’ve hired specialists.

These specialists or subject matter experts are focused on doing the best job they can. And to do that they tend to communicate with others doing the same job they are doing. And they tend to focus on the job rather than the overall world. There are two results to this focus.

The first is that companies begin to exhibit the communications failure we call silos. People within the company build spheres of influence and communications. They stop communicating outside those spheres.

The second is that everyone begins to focus on the day to day. In fact, the danger is that even the entrepreneur and other senior managers focus on the day to day. Skills that support the life cycle of an organization begin to atrophy — if they’re even hired or trained for. Instead, management skills begin to focus on continuation of the team and existing practices.

The organization ceases to be innovative. It is built for operational improvement instead.

The problem, of course, is that innovation is still needed. After all, your environment is not standing still. You still have competitors. You still have technology changes. You have new customers arriving and old ones leaving.

That’s why the smart entrepreneur begins to focus on strategy.

But there’s a problem. The entrepreneur is only one person. And innovation is only important if it is implemented. Innovation is the product of observation, creativity and implementation. You need all three.

So how does an entrepreneur overcome the dual problem of silos and focus on today when they can’t take on any more work themselves?

The answer is a specialist manager called the project manager. Unlike his colleagues in the company operation, his focus is not on the industry or a technology. Instead, her focus is on life cycle management and the tools necessary to implement change in the organization. Their job is to turn observation and creativity into innovation. Their job is to steer the ship where the captain orders.

A project manager is a specialist in communicating across silos. And in building cross-silo teams. They are specialists in helping organizations to bridge the silo gap that every organization develops. Rather than focus down the silo as most managers do they focus on creating a line of communications across the silos.

A project manager is a specialist in the whole lifecycle of teams. Most managers are focused on keeping their teams intact. As one would expect for a permanent endeavor. A project manager on the other hand, has experience in creating a team and disbanding a team. The focus is on temporary endeavors.

Most managers can identify new work and how to do it. At least to a certain extent. But a project manager has the tools and skills necessary to plan work that is unique, identify the risks events that may disrupt the plans and identify the effects of change.

In many ways, a project manager is how an entrepreneur gives up implementation part of strategy as he or she begins to focus on the observation and creative aspects of strategy.