“What’s the timespan of this task?” Reggie wanted to know.
“It depends,” I replied. “When does it start and when does it end?”
“It depends,” he smiled. “Depends on who you ask.”
“I’m asking you, you’re the manager. Timespan is a manager’s judgement. When does it start and when does it end?”
“Depends on the role I am thinking about.”
“Exactly, different roles at different levels of work see the timespan of the task differently, indeed, they see the starting point and the ending point at different places. The starting point and the ending point create the timespan of discretion, the point in the project where they have the authority to make decisions and solve problems. On the same project, we have different roles with different timespans of discretion.”
“So, right now, in my department, we have three projects under three different project managers,” Reggie mused out loud. “I have three project managers who have the authority to make decisions only within the scope of their one project. They are concerned about resources available to them, the project schedule they agreed to, the contingencies within that project when things goes sideways. They have a very sharp focus and don’t spend any time thinking about the other two projects assigned to other project managers. The project starts when the contract is signed and ends when the punch list is complete and accepted by the customer.”
“And you? When does the project start with you as the Senior Project Manager?” I pressed.
Reggie nodded. “For me, it starts way before the contract is signed. I have to work with our sales department to see what we have in our pipeline and what is likely to close. Based on our closing ratio, I have to decide if we have enough project managers with the capacity to handle all the projects that are likely to come under contract. I have to continuously monitor that pipeline to make sure we have enough work to keep everyone busy as project managers cycle off completed projects. I have to figure out what they are going to do next. So, the project timespan for me, over multiple projects, begins long before the contract is signed and I am accountable for the workforce long after specific projects are complete. It’s a different level of work.”