The Power of Project-Based Thinking

As a consultant, 2010 has been an interesting year for me to reflect upon. I am thankful for the clients I have, and they have challenged me to perform my best in a very diverse set of circumstances and industries over the past couple of years.

What was particularly interesting this year was the mixture of smaller, project-based clients versus clients that had more of a retainer-based model engagement structure with me. These bookend engagement structures have different tradeoffs, and one thing that I developed an even deeper appreciation for was the ability to take a “project-based” perspective to either engagement structure.

Although I’m going to leave out an explicit definition of project-based thinking to provoke thought, for me here are some of the benefits I have seen:

  • Since project life can end at any moment, fewer things are taken for granted
  • Agile performance necessitates optimizing the communication and analysis organizational structures
  • There is an increased focus on output and measureable results
  • A focus on output in turn requires decisions to be made more quickly
  • Excess capacity or process inefficiencies become more readily exposed
  • A need for quicker decisions increases the need for management to articulate strategic tradeoffs more crisply
  • There are often concrete efforts to balance benefits (e.g., revenue) against costs (e.g., expenses) and investment levels
  • The goal of driving through a project can help break through barriers and challenge inertia often systemitized by a “corporate structure”
  • A focus on project goals can help bring out the best leadership qualities of the project team.

What are your thoughts? To what extent can consultants, contractors, and employees be engaged with a project-based approach?

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