My rookie assignment was the first time I had an opportunity to manage an enterprise wide program.
I had been working for several years as a Project Manager on small to mid-sized IT focused projects, but that all changed in March 2007. During that time I was working for a state agency helping to mature their Project Management processes. I will never forget that day at my cube, eating my lunch and reading the latest news. One of the larger news items for the day was that the Governor had just signed a sweeping reform bill, which would dramatically change the agency that I was working at. I remember saying to myself, “Wow implementing all these legally-mandated changes will be quite a task!” and went back to my sandwich. Later that afternoon the agency CIO called and wanted to see me. I promptly went to his office where he informed me that I was selected to help the agency implement the new legislation and the next morning was to meet with the Chair and Executive Director of the agency.
At the meeting the next morning, I understood the sense of urgency and the need for tight coordination across all the various activities and groups involved. That conversation flamed both my excitement and nervousness! How was I going to do this and where to start?
After a wave of panic swept over me, I decided I needed to get in touch with experts across the organization. The new program would impact literally every group within the agency, and I had to immediately understand their views, ideas, and concerns. I set up meetings with the leads for each of the organization to start understanding the business of the agency.
Next I turned to agency legal experts including the Chief Legal Counsel to help break-down the massive bill, which filled with a lot of big legal words, into something even a Project Manager could understand!
I remember having that knot in my stomach and initially thinking “What am I going to do?” I was worried about letting the organization down due to the fact that although I had some project management experience, I had zero subject matter expertise and was a rookie at leading a program of that size and scope. The reform was driven by changes in the law and I knew nothing about this particular law. But at the same time, I was very hopeful that the changes being implemented would have a significantly positive impact on the agency’s constituents.
One challenge was to quickly develop methods to capture and report status on the 56 component initiatives that were being defined and executed concurrently. To address this I worked with other Project Managers at the agency to identify how to modify the standard reporting tool in order to scale for this program. The result of which was a set of new tracking tools that I was able to utilize on other programs that I worked on years later.
The critical outcome was that the agency successfully met all of the legally mandated dates for implementing the new legislation. In addition, the agency had new tools and techniques to manage large scale change efforts. Personally I had learned a tremendous amount about managing large programs, which gave me a huge confidence boost in my own abilities.
When I think about what might be possible in my current job if I could re-invigorate this same rookie self, I believe I could generate new ideas and approaches to address some of the obstacles that I am encountering. Just teleporting myself back to this rookie time puts me in a mindset that anything is possible and recreates the excitement of taking on a new role and pushing myself to be creative quickly.
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