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145. Project Managers versus Process Managers

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Dear Erik,

I’ve been trying to solve what you describe all my entrepreneurial life: how to develop and integrate new ideas into our existing business. Often I experienced problems after the implementation of a new idea during the execution. At first there is excitement about a new project, but when it develops slowly and more and more time must be spent on it, enthusiasm wanes quickly. Normal work continues and after a few weeks or months, no-one is talking about the new project anymore.This is very common for entrepreneurs and I am also guilty of it. If I don’t get a new project off the ground quickly and it proves more difficult than I expected and if my attention is needed for urgent cases for the regular business with direct tangible value, I automatically choose the latter at the cost of the new project.

Last week, I heard Peter Diamandis in a podcast called ‘I love marketing’ and he mentioned this issue and he offered a great solution. He makes a distinction between project managers and process managers. Company managers are mostly process managers in his opinion. They ensure that production and delivery is always efficient. Costs down, quality up. They are always busy maintaining and improving all the existing processes regarding production, sales, procurement and delivery and they need all their time and focus for this. Their reward structures are often based on this.

So if you introduce a new idea, however wonderful it might be, and you want the current team to develop and manage it, you are taking their focus and time away from their core activities. They will have to divide their time between something which is profitable and something which currently does not deliver any added value.

For the sales manager, this is perhaps the most obvious. If this person is expected to bring a completely new product to the market, this will mean new sales scripts, new customers, potentially a new approach and the need to learn new marketing skills. So, a lot of work and this will be at the expense of sales of the current range, for which the sales manager and his team are fully accountable. They will not be able to do it, not because they do not want to, or because they are against changes, but simply they will not be able to fit it into their current activities.

Therefore, Diamandis advocates that if you start a new project within your existing organization you should hire a project manager who can focus fully on the new activity and who is specifically rewarded for this.

So you do not necessarily have to create another entity for a new idea, or take over a company, but rather create a new team and allow them to operate independently and don’t bother your other colleagues with the new project.

Best regards,



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