Project Management Institute

First and foremost

mind your own business


by Neal Whitten, PMP, Contributing Editor

WHEN YOU START WORK each day, do not focus on moving your company forward. If possible, do not focus on your company at all. Yes, you read correctly.

Instead, channel your energies on successfully completing your assignments…your domain of responsibility. If everyone in your company focused on his or her domain of responsibility, the company would do just fine. In fact, your company probably would be more successful than it is today.

What do I mean by your domain of responsibility? It includes all responsibilities and commitments that fall within the scope of your assignment. This is the area for which you are accountable. Whether you are a one-person project, a member of a 10-person project, or a member of a 1,000-person project, your project's success—and, therefore, your company's success—has a direct relationship to how well you perform in your domain of responsibility.

If you reach outside your domain of responsibility and attempt to fix or improve something there, I view this to be extra credit in terms of your actions and your performance. I am not a proponent of pursuing extra credit, especially if that extra credit is at the sacrifice of successfully completing your commitments in your domain of responsibility. It has been my experience that if one focuses superbly in his or her domain of responsibility, one's contributions and overall career will shine brightly—even without the extra credit.

It is important to understand the difference between your domain of responsibility and extra credit. Let's look at an example.

You are a project manager of a new project. You also are a member of an organization that has many projects managed concurrently. The organization does not have well-defined project management best practices that you can adopt for your project. Therefore, you (or others at your direction) must define satisfactory practices to be followed on your project. The pursuit of these tasks is not extra credit because you need welldefined practices to support the success of your project.


Neal Whitten, PMP, president of The Neal Whitten Group (, is a speaker, trainer, consultant and author. His books include The EnterPrize Organization: Organizing Software Projects for Accountability and Success [Project Management Institute, 2000]. Comments on this column should be directed to

However, the project management practices you define should be created only for your project. They should not be designed and documented to become institutionalized for other projects to use. If they are prepared in a manner to be used beyond your project, then these actions are examples of extra credit. To perform the extra credit would require much more time to be invested at the expense of your project.

In the course of performing your commitments, any action that you feel you must perform in order to successfully complete your commitments becomes a part of your domain of responsibility. It often is easy to shrug off being accountable for items that require other people's/organization's/company's actions. But if these actions are required to successfully complete your commitments, it becomes your duty to ensure that these actions occur.

Here are a few examples of items that are in a project manager's domain of responsibility but often are weakly pursued:

Adopting/defining PM best practices for the project

Ensuring client participation

Obtaining commitments from others and then holding them accountable

Escalating project-related issues to achieve their timely closure

Enforcing effective change control to manage scope creep

Defending the right project plan to the project sponsor, executives, or client

Boldly driving your project to a successful completion, not waiting for someone else to do it for you.

FOCUSING ONYOUR DOMAIN of responsibility doesn't mean that you don't care about your company. Your actions demonstrate the opposite. The success of your assignments strengthens the success of your company. If you want to turn a company around, then turn around the thinking of the members of that company. Refocus the members on being accountable for their domains of responsibility and the rest will follow. ■

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

July 2000 PM Network



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