Internal People on Projects
When I work as a consultant on big change projects in companies, there are always consultants (outsiders) and business representatives (insiders). The insiders are usually identified as subject matter experts, business leads, and sponsors. Despite what the consultants would like to think, they are pretty replaceable. This is much less true of the business representatives. Their knowledge of the internal workings of the existing processes and their understanding of how the change will significantly impact the future processes are essential to the success of these projects. Their ability to navigate the inner workings of the organizational politics and to get answers and cooperation from key people make the difference between delivering as promised or not delivering at all.
When the opportunity to participate on one of these projects arises, most business people don’t jump at the chance to sign up. They have ‘real’ jobs and not all companies lighten the responsibilities in day-to-day job for project participants. Besides, the kind of people who are identified as potential business leads and subject matter experts are usually pretty happy in their current gig. Why give up something they like for the wear and tear of project work?
What Project Participation Gets You
Project work teaches you more, faster, than practically anything else in an organization. You get to see across the organization in a way that is hard to do below the Executive level. You get to see how to organize and deliver significant change in an organization–again, excellent training for being an Executive. You have a different kind of visibility in the organization, especially if you throw yourself into it and stand out as a cooperative expert. You get to work on a team that crosses the organization, growing your internal (and through the consultants–external) network. You get to watch and learn and practice how to actually make a team work through all the stages of team development. You get to learn a system (usually) or process up close and personal and become the company’s expert on how that system or process works in your part of the organization. Other executives outside your organization get to know you and your work and that provides longer term career possibilities.
Over the course of hundreds of projects I’ve seen it happen over and over. People get assigned to a project, they really take to it and do extremely good work in helping the project get off the ground and succeed. Company Executives notice and start to seek the project participants out for their expertise. Opportunities open up and the stand out project participants are first in line.
Volunteer, Participate, Learn, Accelerate Your Career
So . . . stand out by volunteering and participating and learning in projects in your company. It’s worth the effort in the long term.