Best Practices in ERP Project Management: Big Picture versus Narrow Focus
Posted by Gretchen Freeman-Cromar on September 14, 2011
Another great area to address in project management is context. I agree with Scott Berkum who states in Making Things Happen that in project management one fundamental question is:
Do people always need to see the big picture?
At first glance it would seem reasonable to assume that anyone could benefit and perform his or her job better with an understanding of the context and greater picture. However, even when it comes to information, more is not always better. Consider this popular anecdote:
- In an old story three stonecutters were asked what they were doing. The first replied, “I am making a living.”
- The second kept on hammering while he said, “I am doing the best job of stonecutting in the entire country.”
- The third one looked up with a visionary gleam in his eyes and said, “I am building a cathedral.”
If we analyze the replies we find the first stonecutter who is focused on making a living, will typically give an adequate effort for his day’s wages. The third stonecutter has a more holistic approach and is likely a manager or leader, with a keen eye towards the big picture and the finished product. The caution is the second stonecutter, the one who is focused on doing the best job in the entire country; he has set his own agenda and could prove to be troublesome if he is not properly tuned in to the overall goal. He thinks he is performing excellent work, in becoming the best stonecutter in the country, when in reality; he could be way off base.
This anecdote illustrates the theory that if people understand why something is being done, they will more likely meet the requirements of their task, have higher morale, and be in a better position to act independently. However, in project management, as in many aspects of life, some situations may cause us to think twice about whether it makes sense to share the full vision. For example, we may not have fleshed out a long-term vision yet, so it wouldn’t make sense in that case.
In looking at how to engage as a team, two things need to be considered when we share the big picture: simplicity and context. Simply put, people need to have simple, digestible messages to focus on and they need to understand why they are being asked to do something or to embrace something. Or, again simply put people need to know “how their contribution fits into the outcome we want.” In order to be effective team members we must endeavor to address both simplicity and context when we communicate. Whether it is setting priorities, addressing project goals or getting agreement on shared outcomes, keep it simple and focused.
Read more about project management Theory in Practice at www.oreilly.com, Making Things Happen by Scott Berkun.