Schoppman is a consultant with FMI, management consultants and investment bankers for the construction industry. Schoppman specializes in the areas of productivity and project management. He also leads FMI’s project management consulting practice.
There are those who say the sequel never holds up to the original. The good news is Part II of the Project Manager’s MBA webinar is an electrifying sequel, rivaling that of the Godfather 2 or Empire Strikes Back. What this webinar lacks in special effects and groundbreaking storytelling, it makes up for in skills that every project manager should incorporate into their toolbox. Part I focused on finance, ethics and organizational behavior. Part II continues the journey while exploring the subjects of marketing, economics and operations management.
While economics and operations management channel the inner mathematician and engineer, marketing is a soft subject. This makes it no less important, but understanding the concept of customer management and the voice of the customer is far more grey than some graphical output illustrating supply and demand or even an algorithm optimizing some sort of crew efficiency. While it is hardly scientific, one could make the argument that managers that possess “the marketing gene” are largely some of the most successful associates within any firm. Why? I believe it comes down to two factors:
- Emotional intelligence
- Communicative ability
For instance, a contractor may have the best delivery, best design, best people (notice I left out price) but it is often the contractor that has the ability to communicate value and really connect with the customer that often gets the successful project. (Notice the use of “successful” here. Win/win arrangements in which both the contractor and owner “win” are important. Simply being “low” is not value-based construction, but an entry into a commodity sweepstakes.)
Emotional intelligence helps the more savvy manager to read a customer’s intentions and ultimately communicate the customer’s perception of value. “We heard that schedule (insert item here) was most important, so this is our strategy to help you achieve your goals.” Obviously, marketing is more than only this, but so often technical-minded folks gravitate to more concrete subjects and view this as the “easy A.” It is only an easy A if you can drive a value proposition and execute it flawlessly.
One of my favorite subjects in MBA school was economics—particularly macroeconomics. I was not a fan of convoluted supply and demand curves—they can make you cross eyed. What comes to mind is Thomas L. Friedman, the author of “The World is Flat” and “The Lexus and the Olive Tree.” It is easy to see only our own small slivers of the world—whether you are a drywall contractor in central Florida or general contractor in Minnesota—and barely acknowledge the happenings on the other side of the world (or even in those other cities).
However, a worldly project manager doesn’t see a product or service for face value. For instance, he or she sees inflation, the current declining energy prices, new global transportation routes, patent security and even devalued currency. Whether or not your firm operates globally, you do. A savvy project manager may not have a polished crystal ball, but he or she does have the ability to read the international tea leaves to help him or her make better business decisions. Leaders have a plethora of information at their disposal, and it is incumbent that they use this data to drive strategy.
Lastly, I think of a client that once told me: “Why don’t my managers make the Starbucks cup of coffee?” As a site contractor in the Midwest, I immediately thought he was in the wrong business. He was insinuating that Starbucks, with its billion dollar market capitalization and thousands of employees, manages to create the same cup of coffee everywhere, even with a myriad of menu choices. Yet, his firm—complete with 10 managers—can’t attempt to re-engineer their processes with every customer and every project.
Operational management is a very fancy word for creating a corporate model that shares a consistently adhered process, consistently utilized tools and firm-wide accountability—which is easier said than done. I can already hear the pundits: “We have an entrepreneurial culture and we don’t want to pigeonhole anyone.” I get it, really. However, why not channel that creative spirit into coming up with groundbreaking construction ideas and not inventing the umpteenth version of your firm’s change order log? We certainly don’t need an organization of automatons, but there should be a “Brand X Way” of managing projects.
It was a blast creating my version of The Project Management MBA. While I was in school, I was exposed to so many new ideas and concepts. So many managers are inspired by learning something new and this was extremely cathartic for me to see the business perspective of not only my firm, but also how our clients operated. I truly hope that Part I and II of The Project Manager’s MBA have planted the seeds for all managers to continue to learn and aspire to the next level.
Click here to join us for Part II—and bring your popcorn—this sequel will be legendary!