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A small-business owner manages some projects himself but may have other managers on his team to whom he delegates project management responsibility. How the project is conducted depends to some extent on whether the manager takes a strategic or detail oriented approach. Companies undertake a wide range of projects, including developing new products, creating and implementing marketing plans, adding production capacity and upgrading their information technology systems.
Strategic thinking requires anticipating changes in the business environment and adapting the project to take advantage of these changes and also to reduce the impact of risk factors that emerge. For example, a marketing manager may have the assignment of creating a new advertising campaign. In the course of managing that project, she must use information she's gathered about changes in competitors' product offerings and strategies so she can craft a message that shows potential customers why her company's products or services remain superior. The strategy oriented project manager is constantly scanning the business environment to identify opportunities and threats.
A strategic manager is adept at adjusting a project plan to changing conditions. She may add or delete implementation steps to make sure the project remains on schedule. If she decides that being the first to market with a new product will help the company build its competitive advantage, the project manager would revise the project plan to speed up the process of introducing the product.
The detail oriented manager is skilled at using company resources wisely on projects. Her project plan spells out precisely what resources the project requires and when it will need them. She's adept at budgeting, including obtaining products or services she needs for the project as cost effectively as possible. She understands the necessity of doing a detailed cost vs. benefits analysis for each project before undertaking it. Her approach lessens the chance that the company will waste resources on projects that have minimal benefits.
The detail oriented manager stays on top of coming task deadlines related to the project and follows up with team members to make sure the team will meet them. She's able to coordinate the efforts of the various staff members or departments that have to work together to complete the project. The manager acts as the communication hub for the project and keeps lines of communication open among team members. This approach lessens the chance of delays for the whole project because one of the component tasks isn't ready on time.
Weaknesses of These Approaches
A strategic project manager may undertake too many projects and not complete them all. Her ability to identify new opportunities can spawn more projects than she has the staff and financial resources to complete. A focus on the big picture can cause some important tasks to be forgotten. Detailed oriented managers can be inflexible. They see deadlines as absolutes and may not be reasonable about adjusting them when it becomes clear that meeting the deadline isn't likely. For example, companies sometimes bring products to market with defects because the project manager was determined to meet a deadline and didn't complete the product testing process. Ideally, a manager would try to combine the two approaches. The best managers have vision, but they also are able to manage the small details required to successfully complete projects.
Brian Hill is the author of four popular business and finance books: "The Making of a Bestseller," "Inside Secrets to Venture Capital," "Attracting Capital from Angels" and his latest book, published in 2013, "The Pocket Small Business Owner's Guide to Business Plans."