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Operations Manager or Project Manager—Who Are You?

The status meeting is the test of the operations manager to see whether she can really manage a task or project. In most cases the manager is good at managing the department, but when special tasks are assigned, how does the manager perform then? One of the first setbacks that you as a manager will have to deal with is not being able to complete a task and coming back to the next status meeting to report that you need more time. This might be acceptable once, but the next time this happens the team will start to lose confidence in your leadership ability. Another problem with this is that the more you get used to pushing dates out, the easier it will be to keep pushing them out, and you then are no longer in a task completion mode but a task maintenance mode (reactive). This task has then become a regularly scheduled event; the team has realized that you no longer believe in the task and it has fallen in importance.

Executive management is looking at not only the ability of managers to accomplish their normal responsibilities, but also how successful they are at running special tasks and projects and getting them done! This is primarily the ability to complete special tasks or projects. When scheduled completion dates are accurately assessed and hit on a project, the manager knows that the team did a good job when completing the task. This doesn’t mean that the manager can just push out the dates to ensure that they will always be met, because then these tasks would drag on too long. Managers have to be diligent in sticking to the schedule and managing teams to get things done. In some cases it might be wise to get more accurate information about completion dates instead of committing to a schedule knowing that it’s not realistic.

This can be the first step in understanding how to gain power in completion. Try to improve your process of being better organized as a manager, taking a few extra steps in understanding what you are getting yourself and your team into. Most mistakes made can usually be tracked back to poor assessment of time, resources, or cost or scope of the task, and this results in tasks either not getting completed or taking too long to complete. This is when the operations manager is not thinking like a project manager and is focusing too much attention on the department’s normal work and not enough time on special tasks that need a detailed mind like that of a project manager. The operations manager can do this; they just need to know when and have some basic tools to help organize the project. Completing these special projects on time and efficiently saves the organization time and money, increasing power in both the manager and the organization. The other way to view this is in the organization of normal everyday processes and how much control or power the manager has in accomplishing those tasks.

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