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Vision and the role of the project manager

Adeline Teoh ed.
June 4, 2012

What does Eurovision have in common with project management? No, not terrible singing and bad clothes (although there is that) but the capacity to unite. Case in point, one union’s vision versus the narrow mindedness of one contestant’s country: here’s the long and short (sighted) of it.

And the winner is Sweden! If you missed the Eurovision Song Contest last week you missed an event full of lights, camera and action on the strange costumes—and even stranger lyrics—front. I’m sure they’re still finding glitter in unexpected places.

You probably didn’t miss much. I must confess I don’t even own a TV so followed Eurovision on Twitter via the wry comments and snarky remarks of people I follow. But I started to think about the name ‘Eurovision’ and what it was supposed to represent.

In the early days of television, the European Broadcasting Union conceived an international song contest whereby countries would participate in one show to be transmitted simultaneously in all represented nations. It was a big win for television at the time and current global audience numbers suggest that broadcasters will continue to support the contest for years yet.

The vision here was to unite Europe through this talent quest. Forget for a minute that the competition tends to unite participant countries (against one another), or that there are secret voting politics that put fascist regimes to shame, the contest does unite Europe in the sheer coverage and public interest it attracts, not just in Europe but worldwide. Eurovision achieved, and then some.

Another story came out of Eurovision about the Spanish contestant, whose government told her on no uncertain terms to lose because they couldn’t afford to host the event in 2013. Talk about blinkered! Did they not see that hosting Eurovision might actually boost the coffers from contest-related tourism?

The story of Eurovision origins and the Spanish anecdote leads me to the concept of what vision actually means and how a project manager might actually employ vision to see beyond the project. When we talk about program and portfolio management, the implication is that these disciplines differ from project management in their connection with organisational strategy.

In my mind, that’s not the differentiating factor: a project should always be tied to organisational strategy, which is to say project managers should be able to see how the project delivers benefits at the organisational level, even if that project is contained within one department. After all, no department is an island.

So my takeaway for you today is this: if the projects in your organisation are as disparate as the countries of Europe think Eurovision and how you might unite them, don’t take the Spanish route and focus on the cost of this vision instead of the benefits.

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Adeline Teoh ed.
Adeline Teoh is the editor of ProjectManager.com.au. She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
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