Project Practitioners > Beginning Steps in Becoming a Complete Project Manager

Beginning Steps in Becoming a Complete Project Manager

By Randy Englund

While working in a field service office, I observed how a variety of firefighting activities seemed to repeat themselves: sales made commitments to customers and did not inform service, installations began before the site was ready or all equipment was on site, “rough-in” drawings were incorrect for the equipment ordered, etc. Being a process-oriented person, I made a vow to keep these “fires” from occurring again. I also knew that I had reached a plateau in my development at the job and was ready for a change.

So I took the initiative to propose a revised process and structure to the District Service Manager. Essentially this became known as a project office. I would review all orders and drawings before they were finalized. I would also participate in presales calls, accompanying sales reps on customer visits. In advance of installation startups, I would check each site and then monitor process as projects progressed.

It was important to sell and get commitment to this process from both the Sales and Service Managers before it was implemented. That took a fair amount of negotiating on what steps and how to implement them should be approached. Shortly into implementation, an encounter between myself and the Sales Manager (SM) went something like this:

SM:  “Randy, I’ve been getting complaints from sales reps about your new process that introduce additional steps before quotations may be prepared.”

Me:  “You’re darn right! We’ve been struggling with missteps so much that we need these reviews,” was my reply in an emotional outburst.

A couple weeks later came this discussion with the District Manager (DM):

DM:  “Randy, SM mentioned an encounter with you in the back room awhile back.”

Me thinking, “Oh no, I’m going to get reprimanded for my outburst.”

DM:  “SM was impressed by your passion and commitment to the new process.”

Me thinking, “Wow, there really is a time and place to express controlled anger!”

I had captured the attention of the SM, indicating how important this new process was. My dedication was clear. Over time, all service metrics vastly improved: installation times shortened, profit increased, service technician efficiency rose, and customers were happier. Even sales reps came to appreciate how much value was added by involving the project manager much earlier in the process. I am glad that I persevered in the face of resistance. I believed in what I was doing and made it happen.

Key Take Aways:

  • Identify a problem that is important for the business.
  • Align a solution for the problem with personal skills and abilities that can easily be applied.
  • Take the initiative to leverage skills that solve problems.
  • Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate…
  • Consider controlled anger as necessary when unwarranted resistance arise.
  • Get measureable results.
  • Develop a diverse set of skills on a path to becoming a [more] complete project manager.

This case study is an example of leverage points in action.  Examples and a paper on this topic are available from my presentation with Alfonso Bucero at the PMI Global Congress North America 2014.

Randall L. Englund, Englund Project Management Consultancy,

(Me “staying calm”—T-shirt provided by the Project Management Institute):


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