Neal Whitten (Author)
Publication date: 03/01/2007
for Successful Projects
Neal Whitten, PMP
About the Author
Neal Whitten is a popular speaker, mentor, trainer, consultant, and author in the areas of project management and employee development. He has more than 30 years of front-line project management, software engineering, and human resource experience.
In his 23 years at IBM, Neal held both project leader and management positions. He managed the development of numerous software products, including operating systems, business and telecommunications applications, and special-purpose programs and tools. For three years, he also managed and was responsible for providing independent assessments on dozens of software projects for an assurance group. Neal is president of The Neal Whitten Group, which he founded shortly after leaving IBM in 1993.
Neal is the author of five books, including: The EnterPrize Organization: Organizing Software Projects for Accountability and Success (Project Management Institute); Managing Software Development Projects: Formula for Success, Second Edition (John Wiley & Sons); and Becoming an Indispensable Employee in a Disposable World (Prentice Hall).
Neal is a frequent presenter and keynote speaker at conferences, seminars, workshops, and special events. He has developed and instructed dozens of project management, software development, and personal development classes, and presented to thousands of people from across hundreds of companies, institutions, and public organizations. He has written more than 50 articles for professional magazines and is a contributing editor of PMI(r)’s PM Network magazine.
The services of The Neal Whitten Group include trouble-shooting projects, performing project reviews, training organizations in the practical application of project management principles, and training all members of a project in the adoption of an effective, productive work culture. Popular workshops include The Essentials of Software/IT Project Management: Best Practices; Leadership, Accountability … and YOU; Project Review Mentoring Workshop; Role Clarification Workshop; and a workshop based on this book.
Neal is a member of PMI(r) and has been a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) since 1992. He can be reached through his website: www.nealwhittengroup.com .
Mind Your Own Business
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 toward 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 would probably be more successful than it is today.
Your domain of responsibility includes all responsibilities and commitments that fall within the scope of your assignment. In short, it 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—is directly related to how well you perform within your domain of responsibility.
If you reach outside your domain of responsibility and attempt to fix or improve something there, I view this as extra credit in terms of your actions and your performance. I am not a proponent of pursuing extra credit if it is at the sacrifice of successfully completing your commitments within your domain of responsibility. It has been my experience that if you focus superbly within your domain of responsibility, your 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 practices to be followed on your project. The pursuit of these tasks is not extra credit because you need well-defined practices to support the success of your project.
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. Performing the extra credit would require that much more time be invested, at the expense of your project.
In the course of performing your commitments, any action that you feel you must perform to complete your commitments successfully becomes part of your domain of responsibility. It is often easy to shrug off being accountable for actions that you require from others, but if these actions are required to complete your commitments successfully, it becomes your duty to ensure that they occur.
Examples of items that are in a project manager’s domain of responsibility, but often are weakly pursued, include:
- Seeking out a project sponsor and establishing an effective relationship
- Adopting/defining project management best practices for your 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 on your 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 care about the success of your company, then care about the success of your domain of responsibility. Focus on you and your team members being accountable for your respective domains of responsibility and the rest will follow.
Let’s Talk: Questions & Answers
|Q1.1||As project manager of a project with 10 members, are you saying that my domain of responsibility includes the performance of those 10 members?|
|A1.1||Yes, for starters. As the project manager, your domain of responsibility not only includes the performance of the 1 0 members as it relates to your project, but it includes perhaps dozens of other people as well. For example, if the successful launch, execution, and delivery of your project includes working with many other people, departments, divisions, companies, vendors, and contractors, then all of these people and the relationships you have with them are included in your domain of responsibility. Anything that can impact the success of your project is within your domain of responsibility.|
|Q1.2||As a project manager, does my domain of responsibility include other projects on which my project members may also be working?|
|A1.2||No, not directly, because you are not responsible or accountable for the success of those projects. Your focus must be on your project. You do, of course, care that your project members meet their commitments on your project. Your objective is to do whatever is necessary to help them be successful on your project. That could include working with the project managers of other projects that your project members also work on so that you can more carefully balance the workload of your members to help ensure their success on your project.|
|Q1.3||What if another project is in trouble and its project manager seeks help from me and from members of my project? Should I help?|
|A1.3||If anyone ever asks for two hours of your time or two hours of time from any of your project members, you say “yes.” Why? Because as a mature professional you should almost always be able to find two hours to help someone. However, if the request for help would cause your project to miss its external commitments, then you must say “no.” A project manager does not have the authority to change externally committed dates; only the project sponsor or client has that authority.|
However, as a good companywide team player, after saying “no,” you can then suggest, if appropriate, that the two of you go to a person or committee that has the authority to prioritize projects. Then, whatever the outcome, you willingly comply because it’s in the best interests of the business. The person or committee that makes the decision has the power of authority over the two projects; in other words, that committee’s domain of responsibility may include managing the portfolio of projects in which these two projects are included.
|Q1.4||Isn’t it good for my career to go after “extra credit,” as you call it?|
|A1.4||The first best thing that you can do for your career is to focus on your domain of responsibility and perform well in that arena. If everyone in a company focused on consistently performing successfully within their domains of responsibility, the company would benefit greatly. If you choose to go after extra credit, be careful that you do not sacrifice the successful completion of commitments that fall within your domain of responsibility. So, yes, extra credit can be a good thing for your career—but only if your domain of responsibility is well serviced.
By the way, if the “extra credit” becomes part of your overall duties, it no longer is extra credit. It now falls within your domain of responsibility.