As a project manager, thinking strategically to identifying efficiencies and improve processes is an essential part of my job.
What is strategic thinking?
Strategic thinking is the process of proactively envisioning future possible outcomes in order to identify opportunities and threats, not only to your project, but to your organization and stakeholders as well.
As a project manager, my main goal is to add value to my organization. Thankfully, my job provides this opportunity, but my responsibility does not begin and end with my projects. I push myself to look beyond my daily responsibilities and understand the different stakeholders and needs within my organization. Therefore if I see an opportunity to share knowledge or assist another group in a way that adds value to my company, I can easily act on it.
Of course, you need to complete your responsibilities to be successful, but tunnel vision can be dangerous. While at times it may be beneficial to focus solely on your projects, it’s also important to take a step back and look at the full picture.
Some adjectives I’ve heard describe strategic thinkers are future based, long-term focused, creative, curious, lifelong learners and willing to take risks. Being or becoming a strategic thinker will help you on your projects and in your career.
I was recently asked a question from a junior project manager on what she can do to improve processes within her organization.
My answer – think strategically!
When it comes to process improvements, look for opportunities where you can add value to your company. I would start with processes that haven’t changed in years.
Once you’ve identified a few, do a complete walk through of each process from beginning to end, and ask yourself, “what can be done differently to make this process better?” It could be making a change to improve efficiencies, quality or accuracy. It could also be eliminating a process that is costly and/or time consuming, but don’t provide much value to the organization (think cost/benefit analysis here).
When improving processes, make sure to quantify the outcomes. For example:
- By modifying process XYZ, we improved accuracy by 20% saving us $20,000 in rework.
- By eliminating process ABC, we saved 80 man hours a year.
Lastly document and talk about the improvement. If you get a chance, present your project and results to large group. If you’re adding value, you want to make sure people see this. This will give you the recognition you deserve and will make implementing change within your organization easier going forward.