Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Project Manager is like an Intel Processor

By Jim De Piante

The Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition processor is one heck of a piece of technology. It has six physical cores. Its base clock speed is 3.33 GHz. It supports three channels of DDR3-1066 memory and has 12 threads for your application to work with. It also has 12MB of L3 cache shared across all six cores.

I'm not sure I understand all of that but here's something I understand perfectly: To become the proud owner of one of these will set me back US$999. I also understand perfectly that if I were to drop US$999 for one, I will have wasted my money.

That processor, out of the box, is utterly useless.

Unwrap it and set it on your desk. There it will sit. It will accomplish nothing. In practice, it will be completely indistinguishable from a stone of roughly the same proportions.

Let's look at what it will take to get our US$999 worth out of this little jewel.

First, it needs to be directly connected to a source of power, something that will bring it to life and keep it alive. It also needs to be connected to and communicate with memory and storage, with a keyboard, a mouse, a display, speakers and a printer. It requires software, too, of course.

And even then, it can't really do anything. The real power of that processor can only fully be realized when the computer it runs in is connected to a network of computers.

Power. Contacts. Connections. Input. Output. Software. Communications. A network.

You, the project manager, are that processor.

As necessary and valuable as your technical and project management skills may be, they're not enough to ensure project or career success. It's impossible for you or the stakeholders on your projects and in your career to realize the value you bring unless you are well and fully connected, playing a central role in your stakeholder networks.

We increase the value we bring to our stakeholders by increasing the number and quality of our contacts, by developing strong connections, by creating input/output channels and cultivating communication skills, and by being connected to sources of power and influence. To the extent that we can increase our own value proposition, we can make ourselves more valuable to our stakeholders and in the marketplace.

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