The Project-Centered Company

For most business owners, projects are an afterthought. Startup founders do the hard work of setting up a company and hiring full-time, long-term employees to fill the normal positions, and then deal with issues as they arise. Projects are developed to address specific internal problems or objectives but are ancillary to the core work of the business. In modern industry, which requires highly skilled workers, agility and smart use of resources, perhaps the project mindset should be more widespread.

By following a traditional growth model, many business leaders end up wasting resources. While it may seem like long-term employees are essential for building a new company from the ground up, in many cases having a mix of independent contractors, freelancers and full-timers optimize efficiency, ensures a specialized skill set and keeps the budget on track.

Ultimately, business leaders should develop a project-based mindset for all aspect of their operations. Taking the perspective of a project manager shifts the focus from distant goals to specific tasks that are essential to meeting those goals. These are just some of the benefits of starting every day with the intent of building a culture of project-based work.

Narrow Focus on Specific Goals

Project-based work is set up differently than broader company objectives. There are specific tasks and a defined timeline, and typically only one person to take charge of each role. Project members working exclusively on a particular goal ensures a more streamlined, focused execution. There’s little risk someone will drop the ball because of competing priorities or the necessity of multi-tasking.

Specialized Skill Set

Creating teams for individual projects means tapping the best talent for each specific goal. While a traditional business model expects employees in particular roles to know all aspects of a specific area — a marketer to understand advertising, digital promotion, ads, content, SEO, for example — with a project-based model, each team member has specific expertise. By using freelancers and contractors who are experts on their particular subset, the project has better results just because the level of detailed knowledge is significantly higher.

Cross-Discipline Collaboration

Since project team members are recruited for a specialized skill set, it’s not possible for one individual to do everything. By its nature, projects are group efforts that require collaboration. Developing a culture of working together keeps the focus on the ultimate goal instead of on personal agendas or ambitions.

This collaborative atmosphere is strengthened when team members are freelancers hired for the specific project, as the assessment of their performance is mainly based on how the project comes together as a whole.

Sense of Accomplishment

Long-term employees often become burned out of their jobs, even when they work for a great company. Over time, having to do the same work over and over takes its toll, especially if their jobs amount to a list of tasks and duties not connected to a company objective. Project-based work gives contractors a specific, concrete goal and a sense of completion once the project is over.

Freelancers and full-time regular employees alike can look at the work product and feel a sense of pride and accomplishment at what’s been achieved, even if its ultimate success is uncertain.

Quick Assessment of Success or Failure

Projects, by their nature, have a narrow focus and timeline. It’s easier to expand upon the success of a project, or contain its failure, than if resources are spread out over many departments over many months and years. Because of its specific objective, it’s usually easy to assess the potential return or loss pretty quickly, whether it’s a new product line or a new customer management system.

Project-based work is like the “soft launch” of a product or a test run of a new line in stores. It’s focused, limited and easier to fix the damage or build upon what works than with a long-term, overall company commitment.

Smart Resource Allocation

With a culture of project-based work, business leaders focus resources on individual objectives instead of long-term goals. This perspective allows for a specific budget for a particular project. All resources are budgeted for the limited term of the project, including salaries, hardware, and equipment.

Choosing to hire freelancers and contractors limits risk and saves money, since contractors typically use their own equipment and do not benefit from the protection of an employer-employee relationship. Businesses do not have to pay benefits to contractors. If things go awry, a termination clause is typically written into the contract, so it’s easier to part ways than if the project worker was an employee.

Overall, project-based budgeting tends to make better use of company resources, since the core team of long-term employees tends to be quite small and it’s easier to kill a project than to dissolve a company.

Are All Future Leaders Project Managers?

Despite the benefits of planning based on specific projects, companies will never be able to function entirely without a team of full-time employees who ensure the work is consistent and related to the company’s primary mission. However, instead of wasting resources trying to get everyone on board with long-term, different objectives, many businesses would benefit more from project-based work that is cheaper, less risky and better able to utilize the specialized skill set of a temporary workforce.

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