I once attended a meeting of executives and stakeholders where the topic included goals and objectives for the upcoming year. The discussion involved engaging the company's employees in the corporate objectives by publicizing them throughout the organization and empowering them to take positive steps to achieve them. A discussion took place about whether or not individual employees could make autonomous decisions and suggestions regarding their role, how they could positively impact achievement of the objectives, and push those up to the executive and stakeholder level. "This is great!" I thought. "This is how you en age employees and increase the odds of success."
Although you might be thinking, "Duh ... this is a no brain-er. How else would you involve employees in corporate objectives?" Not everyone in the room agreed.
There was actually one executive who said, "We can't have employees making decisions about corporate objectives. That would result in chaos."
Sadly, that opinion is alive and well in many organizations and project teams. What's more, on the surface it might not look like anything is wrong. However, lost opportunity, which is the primary cost of keeping team members in the dark, can be expensive. Because many organizations don't make it a practice to keep team members in the loop, it isn't always a matter of projects not getting done. It's a matter of lost time and energy chasing down the negative results of:
- Team members that fixate on minor features that either don't add value or actually detract from the project's original objectives
- Scope creep that starts to spiral out of control
- Poor morale and apathy regarding deadlines and milestones that cause unnecessary project delays
I must admit, I didn't always do it the way he wanted me to. If I could, I'd try to shortcut the process any time I could get away with it (which is not too different from what project team members do in the same situation). And, although I couldn't tell the difference, he always could. Until the Saturday he showed me what he was looking for, and I saw the difference myself. In other words, he clearly shared his vision and I completely understood what it was. My mission then became making the process more efficient so I could give my dad what he wanted, and still spend Saturday with my friends.
Is managing projects really much different? I agree that project management tools that provide business leaders top-down visibility into the initiatives that project teams work on is important—but work management methodologies that give project teams bottom-up visibility into corporate objectives and how their projects impact those objectives is crucial for project managers who want to maximize the efficiency of project teams.
Overcoming an organization's need to keep corporate goals and objectives close to the vest might be a challenge—but the rewards could be great. If the goal really is to keep project teams focused on those projects that provide the most business value, doesn't it make sense to inform project teams as to what the business objectives of every project are? In my opinion, keeping the business objectives of every project front and center (visible) just makes sense. When everyone on the team is focused on the same objectives, regardless of their particular role, the odds of success increase exponentially.
What do you think? Is it important to keep the project team in the loop? Or is it better that they do their job and don't worry about the bigger picture?