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Be a Helicopter Project Manager

Be a Helicopter Project Manager

It can be difficult to discern what details are important in a new job and what you can ignore. I have been trying to absorb everything, which has been moderately successful. I have absorbed a lot of low level detail and, without knowing if it’s something I should be focusing my attention on in this role. I have also gotten into the reasons this particular piece of technology isn’t working or whether we have sent this purchase order.
I must say that I find it all very interesting and a great way for me to get to know the team and learn about their priorities and the project.
It remains to be seen if it is a good use for a project manager’s resources in the long-term. I believe project managers, myself included due to the sheer size of the project, would be better off to keep a strategic view and keep all plates spinning. Then, only focus on the details when they require us to help.
The Big Picture
It is easy for project managers to get so caught up in the details that it becomes difficult to see the larger picture. This happens especially when projects become too large. There are several things that can help you stay on the right track.
Project reviews: Get a colleague to review your risk and issue logs and other documents. They will also give their opinions on how the project is going. Or not going, depending on the case
Scope management: got a change control process? No? Do you have one? It’s the only way you can keep track of what your project is doing.
Feedback to stakeholders: Even if your project does not use a formal Gate process like the one used in the UK Government to manage project projects, you should still be regularly reporting back to your stakeholders to let them know how things are going relative to the original business case.
It’s not only you that is at risk of losing sight of the goal, but also your sponsor. It is easy for sponsors to lose sight of the original goals and change them beyond recognition. If this happens, you should flag it up to other stakeholders and your manager. Always ask your sponsor, “How can this help us achieve our objectives?”

Your role is like a helicopter. To be able zoom in and handle any crisis in any location, you need to have a complete view of your project, including scope, quality control, schedule, team, and so forth. You must also be able to look back and hover to see the whole picture.
You can be a helicopter pilot and see the big picture. When you embark on a new project, you will need to understand what is important and what isn’t. You’ll then be able to “land” on a problem, resolve it, and still see the big picture.
It would be a great idea to have my own helicopter to help me avoid London’s crowded public transport system.
* This helicopter graphic is from my book.

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