Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 3

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on June 17, 2017

This is my third installment to a brief series on simplicity and complexity in business communications, and in carrying out and evaluating the results of business processes, tasks and projects (see Part 1 and Part 2.)

I began addressing the issues and challenges of effective business communications in Part 1, and then switched to consider a special case in point example as provided by project management. And to clarify what I mean there, I refer to both the:

• One-off nature of specific projects, and the need to carry out such endeavors as perhaps-exceptions to business-as-usual processes and practices,
• And the need for standardized processes and mechanisms for setting up and managing and participating in projects and certainly for any organization that recurringly carries out specifically organized projects: in-house or as a client-facing service or both.

I stated at the end of Part 2 that I would shift directions in this series installment:

• To consider communications and communications best practices from the perspective of project management and leadership best practices, where different organizations and I add different types of projects might face different best practices alternatives for managing the issues that I have been raising here.

And I begin doing so by considering the role of scale and focus in projects. As a general rule, smaller and simpler projects – projects with more constrained and limited goals, can be managed and carried out by a smaller and more constrained headcount of participants, and at all levels. This, among other things (usually) means fewer opportunities for scheduling conflicts for hands-on participants where they would find themselves torn between requirements to carry out special assignment project tasks, and their more routine work. I parenthetically added in that word “usually” there because all it takes for chaos and complication in project work, is one inopportunely positioned gatekeeper manager who sees themselves as owning the time and effort of at least one crucial would-be project participant. I refer here to managers who have in their teams, employees with specialized skills that might be required for a project that requires interdisciplinary participation, who insists that their routine work is always more important than any non-standard work that members of their team might also be responsible for, that will not enter into their own pre-established performance review goals or stretch goals or those of their team. This type of resistance to active and timely participation can throw off any project’s schedule and I add any project’s budget, as work-around accommodations have to be arrived at and followed through on and as work completion dependencies and complications of missing goals create ripple effects. And this can happen even in small but important projects, and certainly if a bottleneck manager’s own next level up supervisor is unwilling to step in to adjudicate matters as can sometimes happen.

• Effective communications cannot always guarantee buy-in and active support, but a failure in communications in this type of context can and probably will stymie them.

If this at least potential problem is important at the level of the individual project, it is even more so in setting up and actually following more general guidelines for any business that recurringly faces need to carry out projects in general.

Flipping this around with regard to my starting assumptions as addressed up to here, larger projects with correspondingly larger overall headcounts are more likely to draw in people from a wider range of functional areas in the business, including for example at least someone from finance for managing project budgets, and even if the projects under consideration are not financial department oriented for what they would accomplish. Larger projects of necessity bring in wider ranges of types of stakeholders. And larger projects can also of necessity call for larger and more complex management structures too.

• And a real driver of complexity there can be found when seeking to maintain communications and buy-in and in the face of information sharing friction or management resistance.

And with that point noted, I offer a division of labor option at the top of a project’s management that I have found very useful, where a given project might have:

• An overall project manager who provides overall strategic leadership and who works with more senior business management on behalf of a project, and
• A right-hand man or woman, project coordinator who reports directly to the overall project manager and who is tasked with keeping everything on track on a more details-oriented operational level, and for working with and managing communications and other problems as they arise within the project and with managers who project participants normally report to. Note: the overall project manager would become involved in that if needed and if a sufficiently impactful point of disagreement was arrived at between an outside manager and a project participant or manager. That would be specifically identified as an escalation in problem resolution response.

What I am writing of here, is the need for reasoned and need-based growth of a project team, and at all levels and to facilitate communications and the completion of task dependency work, and to help keep everything moving as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. When adding in a specific new position and project team member would specifically lead to improvements there, that person should be brought in. When a project participant is no longer needed, they should be relieved of this project participation responsibility and returned to their usual work responsibilities so they can focus more fully on them again. And for complex, long-term projects this process of bringing in and in time phasing out involvement of specific active participants becomes an ongoing endeavor, that would be strategically managed by the overall project manager and tactically managed by their project coordinator, at least where such a position has been carved out as a separate project level work description.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will look beyond the more limited context of projects and project management systems. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And also see my series: Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill Set, for its more generally applicable discussion of focused message best practices per se. I offer that with a specific case in point jobs and careers focus, but the approaches raised and discussed there are more generally applicable. You can find that series at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, as its postings 342-358.

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