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The importance of knowing what is important

In our insight analysis for today, we consider the importance of knowing what is important in any situation we find ourselves. Given the prevailing poor economic climate, uncertainty, work pressure, family pressures, all sorts of challenges, the value of knowing what is important at any point in time becomes so very critical.

In a recent Project Management Course, I asked the participants to tell me what quality, skill or attribute they consider the most important for a Project Manager to possess?

The answers provided include technical skills, interpersonal skills, Human Management skill, financial management abilities, etc. My response was that although the skills and attributes they suggested were good to have, but by far the most important ability for a Project Manager is to know what is important at all times and situations. Other skills mentioned come a distant second. |

They asked me to explain. I recalled that earlier on I had emphasized that a Project Manager may be forgiven if he does not know every technical aspect of a project or task area. In fact, nobody in life is really expected to know everything. However, it is an unpardonable offence for a Project Manager not to know what he does not know.

What this means is that you are not worthy of leadership (not yet, at least) if you do not have a way of confirming that you do not know enough about a subset or area of a task before you. Effective leaders, whether project or business managers, community or corporate leaders go the extra mile to know what is important or the key deliverables in any situation they face.

When you know what is important, the next logical step will be an objective assessment of your personal abilities and competence in handling the task.  If your assessment reveals the need for external resources, you’ll proceed to implement processes to get the best quality and matching price. In this way, you raise a team of people whose strengths and weaknesses are combined in an optimized matrix to effectively meet the business or project goal. A project manager on a building project does not have to be an Architect. Not being an architect does not absolve him of being branded as incompetent if he does not know that a fundamental requirement for a building project is to have proper designs by qualified architects.

Without Architectural, Civil/Structural, Mechanical and Electrical design drawings and resulting Bill of Materials, how can a project manager hope to develop accurate cost estimates for project budget, planning and cost control? One of our managers got a call from an uncle who has need for a Technical and Economic Feasibility study for a Fish Farm project he plans to embark on. He needs the study to apply for a bank loan.

The interesting thing is that he thought so poorly of the importance of the feasibility study by requesting for free service. Although he cannot develop it himself, he obviously does not understand the real details of a feasibility study nor does he make the important connection between the quality of the study and the attached potential for loan approval. A feasibility study is not primarily meant for bank loans but also adds value in presenting a better picture of the proposed project viability, risks and opportunities.

The 1-5% cost of these studies provide information for easy decision making: Proceed, cancel or adjust plan concept. Unfortunately, many have this approach and end up losing lots of money by investing in the wrong projects, business or ventures.

A number of bankers complain that the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido is responsible for banks not granting credit facilities to customers anymore. This is utter nonsense.

He has only taken measures that demand financial institutions follow standard credit risk management processes in loan administration. But because many of our banks don’t know what is important, they appear lost and bereft of ideas.

The truth is that our banks do not know that there can be no real growth or sustainable profits for them without a measurable growth in the real sector of the economy. If they knew, there’ll be a definite commitment to develop sustainable tools, techniques and processes. Knowledge empowers action. About two weeks ago, a number of bank executives and managers held weekend meetings/retreat. Top of the agenda was how to increase account management charges. Please scrutinize your account statements more from now on.

That’s the type of action that people who don’t know what is important take. The good news is that it will not last. There will continue to be distress in the banking sector as in other sectors until those in charge know what is important and then commit to make them a reality.

Our leaders will continue to lead badly until they realize that the primary purpose of national leadership is country growth and development as opposed to private pocket and tribal “advancement”. Moral values will continue to decline unless religious and community leaders take the bold step to condemn members who steal, cheat, defraud, kill, lie and other vices. School proprietors who buy SSCE/JSSE exams to stimulate high scores in their pupils to generate higher enrollment figures make the mistake of thinking that the money for now is more important than the future capability of their graduates. Accepting bribes to vote is another example of poor knowledge. Companies don’t employ because they want to satisfy an employee.

They employ first to fill a business need. When the staff member achieves this function, he or she is rewarded by recognition, promotion etc. Many employees make the mistake of thinking that the company must understand and motivate them first before they can perform.

Too bad for this group!. Our stock market will only recover when the “experts” in investment and portfolio management stop thinking that some group of rich, uninformed fools will come from nowhere and make sustained buying on the exchange while they cash-in and sell for handsome profits.

World markets that have recovered did not do so through wishing and hoping. They know what is important and also had existing processes and structures. When they made the mistake, they quickly re-strategized by doing the right things. Practical and continuous learning is one way to increase your knowledge power. Without it, the future becomes too risky to contemplate.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.