One of the hallmarks of the entrepreneurial lifestyle is overtime. We try to do too much – we do the marketing, we do the sales, we create the product and we do the administration. But first of all we design and build our company. However, over time and with luck, our business will grow until we are big enough to hire people.
In the beginning, when we are smart, we start hiring people to do the things we are not very good at. And we also hire people to do the things we shouldn’t be doing. Things where we can hire someone who is better at the job than we are for less money. In other words, we prioritize and let others do the less valuable tasks.
As our business grows, two phenomena appear. The first is that we as entrepreneurs will focus on the strategies around our company. We look for opportunities to grow and threats to avoid. We build our strengths and try to overcome our weaknesses. And we are starting to focus less and less on the day-to-day running of our company.
The second phenomenon occurs when the number of our employees starts to grow above seven. Silos appear. Now silos can appear even earlier, but they are almost inevitable as the organization grows past seven. We have hired specialists for most of the day-to-day operations.
These specialists or subject matter experts are focused on doing their work as well as possible. And to do that, they usually communicate with others who are doing the same job as them. And they focus on work rather than the overall world. This focus has two results.
The first is that companies are starting to exhibit the communication failure we call silos. People within the company build spheres of influence and communication. They stop communicating outside of those spheres.
The second is that everyone starts to focus on the day. In fact, the danger is that even the entrepreneur and other senior managers focus on the day-to-day business. Skills that support an organization’s life cycle begin to atrophy – if even adopted or trained. Instead, management skills begin to focus on team continuation and existing practices.
The organization ceases to be innovative. It is built instead for operational improvement.
The problem, of course, is that innovation is still needed. After all, your environment does not stand still. You still have competitors. You still have technological changes. New customers are arriving and old ones are leaving.
That is why the smart entrepreneur starts to focus on strategy.
But there is a problem. The entrepreneur is only one person. And innovation is only important if it is implemented. Innovation is the product of observation, creativity and implementation. You need all three.
So how does an entrepreneur overcome the double problem of silos and focus on today when he can no longer accept work himself?
The answer is a specialized manager called the project manager. Unlike his business colleagues, his focus is not on industry or technology. Instead, her focus is on life cycle management and the tools needed to implement change in the organization. Their job is to convert observation and creativity into innovation. Their job is to steer the ship the captain orders.
A project manager is a specialist in communication between silos. And when building cross-silo teams. They are specialists in helping organizations bridge the silo gap that each organization develops. Rather than focusing on the silo, most managers focus on creating a line of communication across the silos.
A project manager is a specialist in the entire life cycle of teams. Most managers are focused on keeping their teams intact. As you would expect for a permanent effort. A project manager, on the other hand, has experience in putting together a team and dissolving a team. The focus is on temporary efforts.
Most managers can identify new work and how to do it. At least to some extent. But a project manager has the tools and skills necessary to plan work that is unique, identify the risks that can disrupt the plans, and identify the effects of change.
In many ways, a project manager is how an entrepreneur gives up implementing a strategy as he or she begins to focus on the observation and creative aspects of strategy.