Leverage Project Management Skills to Climb the Corporate Ladder
Annette Maggi, MS, RD, LD, FADA
Executive Director, RDBA
If you're looking to rise in the ranks at your retail company, there are two types of management skills with the potential to drive your career and role upward when mastered—people management and project management. Today's focus is on the latter.
Unlike the day-to-day work of running various functions within a retailer, there are often special projects needed to keep the company current with technology advances, to respond to changes in consumer demand or to launch a new service. Taking on one of these projects, especially when outside the RD's direct work scope, can showcase to your retailer the talents and skills you have outside the technical area of nutrition. It also provides an opportunity to build new skills and interact with leaders with the company with the potential to impact your career movement.
The challenge with many projects is achieving the goals and objectives within constraints like scope, time, quality and budget. By addressing the following five steps in the project management process, you're sure to have success:
- Initiation. Perhaps most important in this step is clearly defining the scope of the project. As teams head down the project path, "scope creep" can easily happen, throwing the whole project off course. In the Initiation phase it's also essential to establish measurable goals in terms important to your company.
- Planning & Design. This is where the action really begins. You'll need to establish a project team, define other resources needed as well as key deliverables, timing and action, and a budget for the project. When establishing the team, be sure to surround yourself with those who will be committed to the project and have something to gain with the project's success. As many retail projects can be complex ad cross functional, consider the documentation you will use to track the team's work and project's progress.
- Execution. No matter how well organized and planful you are, there are likely to be glitches that arise in the execution of any project. A test of your leadership ability will be how you react under this pressure.
- Monitoring. Dietitians are scientists and understand the importance of measurement. To prove that you can excel at project management, be sure to include budget and time for measurement against the project's goals and objectives.
- Completion. At project's end, you may be ready to dust your hands off and move on, but don't miss your opportunity to really shine. Put together a summary of the project's successes and shop it around to key stakeholders ad senior leaders in your company. Without being too boastful, take credit for your leadership role in driving the project's success.
Many companies have a philosophy of offering stretch assignments to high-potential employees. It's completely appropriate to address with your manager the option of managing a corporate-wide initiative as a stretch assignment. It can be just the thing to take your career to the next level.