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Is Your Halo Blocking Your (Requirements) Vision?

There is a correlation between projects that meet documented needs (but not the business needs) and the ‘Halo Effect’.

The Halo Effect, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary, is “an effect whereby the perception of positive qualities in one thing or part gives rise to the perception of similar qualities in related things or in the whole”. More practically speaking, it is when someone who is an ‘Expert’ on a subject area is appointed as the project manager because of that expertise. However, being a Subject Matter Expert (SME) does not automatically make someone a Good Project Manager.

One of my first project management experiences came when I had asked our company to address a customer service issue that was affecting the operation of my department. Being the person closest to the problem, I was assigned as the PM and sent on my way.

I started off listing all of the things that I thought were requirements in as much detail as possible. I then had my team look at everything and off we went. The project team worked really hard and we completed my project on time and on budget.

Once completed, the problems started. We were only able to address part of the original issue that we set out to fix. We had fixed my side of the problem. The rest of the issues were still there. I was appointed to the PM position because I was the expert, but that ended up hurting the project. I had failed to get other experts involved because I thought I knew it all.

While I have learned my lesson, I have seen this same scenario play out over and over again. Time after time, subject matter experts are put into PM positions because they know “what’s best”. Many times the projects requirements turn into being all about the SME’s opinions rather than company needs.

The next time you think you have it all figured out, perhaps you should stop and make sure to evaluate whether or not the full realm of expertise had been explored”. It just might make a difference.

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