This is a guest post by Martin Webster from leadershipthoughts.com.
Search for project management training on Google and you’ll find lots of courses on the topic. Many refer to APMP, MSP, PRINCE2 or even agile project management.
What most have in common is an emphasis on project management accreditation, project planning, risk management, reporting progress, controlling change, managing and escalating issues and suchlike. Now these things are important. They are the requisite skills of the competent project manager.
But they don’t guarantee success!
When I think of the successful project managers I’ve hired, it’s not their qualifications that come to mind. No, it is their ability, attitude and behaviour. Each project manager has distinctive leadership qualities. For instance:
- action, and so on
Managing projects is tough
Managing projects is tough. And, some things will inevitably go awry … as tensions rise outcomes are questioned and people start behaving unpredictably. Some will pass blame while others put up barriers … no one can be relied on to keep their integrity.
In failing circumstances no one can be relied on to keep their integrity. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
And, the project manager has to hold things together and navigate through the conflict and always focus on a solution. A good project schedule or risk management plan may certainly help, but it is project leadership that brings the team back on track.
Let me explain …
The Balcony and the Dance Floor
The project manager needs to keep in balance the overall project objectives — the complexity of every task and risk — with the organisational context. In other words, the project manager spends time between the balcony and dance floor.
The dance floor metaphor, introduced by Ronald Heifetz in the 1990s, alerts us to get underneath the specific activities of managing projects and to look for patterns and causes affecting project performance.
Knowing how the environment is pulling your strings and playing you is critical to making responsive rather than reactive moves. – Ronald Heifetz
When facing a particular challenge, the project manager needs to understand why there is a problem before finding a solution. This is the difference between the detailed knowledge of project tasks and risks and an awareness of the project environment and how it changes over time.
For example, think about the team manager holding back performance information. What do you do? If you’re prone to losing your temper or making demands that can’t be met, is it such a surprise that people withhold information for fear of repercussions? Or, when people cut corners to get the job done, what do you do? If you squabble or pass blame, you are part of the problem when it is your job is to find a solution.
So, step on to the balcony.
Learn to understand what is going on. Projects look different from the balcony. There are ways of dealing with poor results, but not on the dance floor, chastising the communication of poor results.
When the schedule inevitably slips, give direction and support, while understanding what is going on. Project leaders create the right conditions to solve such problems. And, only then draw on their project management skills to plan for the consequence of poor results and delay.
Copyright © A Girl's Guide to Project Management [What Project Managers really need to know about leadership], All Right Reserved. 2014.
Certifications add to your hard skills and cover the whole a breadth of knowledge in the space. They also provide you with a resume boost. But there is another side to the coin – leadership.
The distinction between the hard skills of management and the soft skill of leadership was clearly stated by management guru Peter Drucker. He said that “management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
As a Project Manager, technical or hard skills are important…but ultimately the most important thing is leadership. It’s less tangible, but it has a higher impact, and many people push it to the side because they feel most comfortable with the tangible.
When you embrace the idea that 80% of the results comes from 20% of the effort, you can begin to shift your focus and also convince others to change theirs. In short, you demonstrate leadership.
So how do you take that knowledge and build your leadership skills? It takes deliberate effort, applied and internalized on a consistent basis. But there are short cuts…because 80% of the results you get will surely come from 20% of your efforts!
Leadership and 80:20 thinking go hand in hand.
John Reiling, PMP
Project Management Training Online
The APM vision that’s been hotly debated over the last 12 months or so is ‘a world in which all projects succeed’. Should all projects succeed? Or should we be taking risks and launching some projects that might not come to anything? Or should all projects have the best possible chance of success?
In this video, some project management experts discuss this vision statement and what is likely to be possible in the future.
Copyright © A Girl's Guide to Project Management [A world in which all projects succeed [video]], All Right Reserved. 2014.
Oooh, it’s dangerous to make predictions for the future, but I thought I’d give it a go. Project management seems to be changing quite a lot at the moment, and it certainly feels like over the last couple of years we have (finally) taken some leaps forward in thinking and, as a profession, deciding where we should be headed. So, time to lay my neck on the line and tell you where I think project management is going.
Creativity takes teams back to the office
There’s been a lot of talk about flexibility, work/life balance and all that. And we’ve made great advances in managing virtual teams. I work from home some of the time, and from hotel rooms at other times, or on the train. My workspace isn’t just my office desk.
Having said that, there is something to be said for hanging out with your colleagues. You can get more creative and solve problems more quickly. I just don’t think the technology is there to enable the sort of creativity that you get with the whole project team in a room together.
There will always be a need to work apart, especially as we draw on expertise wherever it is based in the world, but I think there will be a drive towards getting people back together as much as possible.
This is, apparently, where the conversation is at. Waterfall is dead, long live Agile. Actually, I don’t think it is that extreme. There are thousands of companies who haven’t adopted Agile but plenty more that have opted for an agile-light approach, with just enough process and just enough release management to get changes and features into projects without being able to say that they are truly Agile with a capital A.
I think we’ll see more of this hybrid agile taking off as companies need to move more quickly and get products to market even faster. And ‘proper’ Agile will also grow in adoption.
Metric-driven project management
This year it’s been all about reframing stakeholders as customers. Next year (while that customer focus will continue) it’s all about metrics. KPIs and dashboards aren’t new tools but at the ‘professional’ end of project management (in comparison to the ‘accidental’ end), we’ll be managing by metrics more and more.
Leadership and beyond
Career paths at the top will take you out of project management.
Sustainability has been on agenda for a while but it’s now linked to profitability. Businesses have previously been able to pick and choose green projects because they helped improve their local reputation or because they satisfied some audit requirement. But now, with budgets being even more squeezed, sustainability supports profitability.
For project managers, this means more projects with a green focus and more weight being given to sustainability on other types of projects too – look out for green project metrics and business cases with green benefits.
OK, so that’s what I think is going to be important. How about you? What trends have you seen and where do you think project management is going? Let us know in the comments below.
Copyright © A Girl's Guide to Project Management [Looking ahead: Predictions for Project Management in 2014], All Right Reserved. 2013.
A motivated project team can bring a project to life. It can give the project the momentum it needs during its toughest hours and spur people on to reaching the end. Great management is the key to getting the most out of a team, and part of managing a team is making sure they are always motivated to give everything they have got to a project. If you are looking at ways to get your team motivated for your project, here are ten ideas to get you started:
1. Give your team autonomy
There is nothing that will zap a team member’s spirit more than being micro-managed. Respecting the work and the skills of your team means allowing them the freedom to make judgment calls where it is suitable to do so. They might make the wrong decisions sometimes, but that is simply a learning exercise for them, and best for them to learn it directly than being told. Micro-management is not only extremely difficult to do on a project with multiple team members but it is also very demotivating for everyone involved, as every discussion, conversation and piece of documentation becomes focused on very small details.[ Members Only Content - please sign up to view it... ]
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Business analysis has come of age. If change programmes are to be successful, then problem solving, stakeholder engagement, business cases and situational analysis are essential. So comes in the BA role to “challenge, lead and influence” according to Debra Paul in the Foreword to this book.
Edited by Penny Pullan and James Archer, Business Analysis and Leadership is a multi-author book for business analysts wanting to develop their leadership skills. And if you are a project manager who doesn’t really know why your project team has a BA onboard, then this book will help explain what value they will add. In short, as Suzanne Robertson explains:
“The project manager is primarily concerned with facilitating the activities necessary to get the project done. The business analyst’s primary concern is to understand and communicate the work of the business and to make recommendations for improving that work. On the surface the two roles are very different, but the most successful projects recognise that there is a lot of important overlap.”
Leading when you aren’t in charge
The book is (obviously) focused on leadership. However, formal authority on the project is likely to reside with someone other than the BA: the project manager, sponsor or another senior manager. BAs work alongside these people and challenge where necessary. In fact, lots of people in the project team have the opportunity to lead when they are not in a position of hierarchical power, so if you are a project co-ordinator or junior member of the PMO team this does not discount you from managing upwards and leading from the position that you have. Leading in these situations looks like “taking responsibility, proactively working with others to understand what’s needed and to inspire and influence others towards a common goal,” according to the editors.
The book is split into 4 parts:
- Leading yourself
- Leading projects
- Leading in organisations
- Leading in the wider world.
I enjoyed the last section best, perhaps because it resonated most with me and was the least specific to the BA role. However, the whole book was enlightening. Leadership is a ‘soft’ skill and you’d expect there to be a lot about softer topics. The book covered influencing in detail as well as how to deal with office politics and career progression – topics of relevance to anyone in a project environment.
In one of the chapters, Sarah Coleman writes:
“Technical knowledge and commercial knowledge are ‘hygiene’ factors: these are the professional things that you have had to do, learn and experience in order to get as far as you have. But these are only the ‘entry-level’ requirements for senior positions… Understanding the business, the market and the product portfolio are certainly important, but the next step up to senior and board level is a little different.”
She goes on to say that leadership and strong relationships at all levels are essential skills for managing office politics and building your career in a positive fashion. Kevin Brennan takes this a little further:
“If you find that people are discounting your knowledge, oddly enough, it can be more effective in turning that impression around for you to gain more knowledge of their job than to get better at your own.”
The book is amazingly interlinked despite having multiple authors. The chapters could be read in isolation but, unlike other multi-author books, it works as a whole too instead of as a collection of papers. It’s also illustrated attractively, which makes the diagrams easy to understand.
Hopefully in 5 years this book will be out of date and the traditional role of business analyst as requirements gatherer will be long gone. Maybe we’ll have also shaken off the view that stakeholders are difficult. As Michael Brown writes in a chapter that challenged my own perceptions:
“Stakeholders do not start off as ‘difficult.’ I suggest that they become difficult, usually as a result of what the person engaging with them does (or doesn’t do)…You get the difficult stakeholder you deserve.”
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