Project Management Institute

Ignore What Doesn't Matter

Want to Deliver Standout Results? Start by Putting on Strategic Blinders



By Andrew Robinson, PMP

The sparse prose of Ernest Hemingway, one of my favorite authors, is an object illustration of the proverb “less is more.” Steve Jobs brilliantly understood the saying as well. He famously reduced Apple's product line by 70 percent, to only four products, to focus the company on what was truly important. “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” he once said. “It's true for companies, and it's true for products.”

What can we learn from these two men? For executives and project managers alike, the main lesson is about the vitality of translating complex situations into clear and inspiring paths. Many of us have been called upon to lead in chaotic circumstances. During my career I've learned that the core role of a senior executive or project manager is not to analyze a lot of numbers and delegate decision making. Rather, it's to focus on what's truly important to organizational performance: achieving strategic benefits. True leaders help others stop worrying about what doesn't really matter. They simplify the organization's field of vision by focusing on essential performance metrics and clearly communicating which actions are needed to drive that performance.

Two current major trends in the corporate world also illustrate how less is more, albeit in fairly different ways.

We are witnessing a transformation in the IT project management world from waterfall to agile approaches. Why? Waterfall has a history of delivering systems that are obsolete before they are operational. Agile can provide clients with the functionality they need, more quickly and at a lower cost. The agile process is all about focusing on what users really want—and that's it. Less is more!

Or take “innovation,” another top corporate mantra. Historically, senior management developed the business strategy and implemented it top-down. The process often took years. Strategies were often complex and costly but did not provide the intended market opportunities. The decentralized innovation approach taken by many companies today, on the other hand, empowers employees to create good ideas that respond to a rapidly changing business environment. It removes the chains of corporate complexity, unlocking creativity to drive organizational agility.

I believe that the organizations, and project professionals, best positioned for success are those focused solely on helping their teams delete all distractions and do nothing but deliver strategic value focused on just a few overarching goals. PM

img Andrew Robinson, PMP, is CEO of Robbins Gioia in Alexandria, Virginia, USA. He has worked in management consulting for over 25 years and can be reached at andrew.[email protected].
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