I rarely remember my dreams; and when I do, they generally aren’t about work. Usually some childhood fear rears its ugly head, and once again I am reliving the anxiety of forgetting my homework, failing a test or becoming hopelessly lost in the corridors of Woodson High School.
So the other day, I found it refreshing that I had a fairly sensible dream about my professional life—and I remembered it!
I was part of a team charged with executing a new PR campaign, and it didn’t seem to be going very well. Someone high up in the organization let it slip that our campaign would be ending just two days after its launch. I remember thinking, “How could that be?”
But when I woke up and thought about it in the cold, hard light of day, I realized our team hadn’t done a very good job of communicating the need for the campaign. We hadn’t done anything to get senior-level buy-in, and so we had zero support from the top.
I’m convinced that communicators (and, really, all project managers) often have no one to blame but themselves for plans that go awry. Show me a botched PR or marketing project, and generally I can point to a fundamental misunderstanding of the organization’s business plan, its goals or the CEO’s expectations. In fact, failure to satisfy internal stakeholders is probably more deadly to a campaign than its reception by external stakeholders.
During my association career, I saw how pronounced the disconnect can be at times between the doers in an organization and the top-level strategists and policymakers.
Many times I sympathized with the talented doers tasked with getting things done, even sided with them. But I could also see how their silo thinking got in the way. Project managers don’t always “get” that their work is part of a larger mosaic, influenced and dictated by the needs of the organization and, at times, by the mercurial desires of a CEO or board.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t have principles and best practices, and that they aren’t worth defending. But it’s hard to defend a manager who has charted a course that is contrary to the company’s vision or has failed to build the case for change.
So instead of daydreaming about your next great campaign, start mastering the fundamentals. Here are five tough questions worth answering, no matter what you do for your organization:
- Have you aligned your goals with the strategic goals of your organization? More importantly, do your goals match up with the CEO and board’s goals?
- What are you doing to educate your organization about the value of your services? How much does your CEO really know about what you do and how you can help him reach his goals?
- When was the last time you anticipated the needs of your organization, suggested new products in response to emerging trends or solved a problem without being asked?
- Have you written a business plan for yourself or your department that demonstrates the value you bring to the organization? The steps you will take to reach your organization’s goals?
- Do you actively and voluntarily measure the results of your projects and report those results to your organization?