The goal of any successful Project manager is to deliver project value. A project is nothing more than a vehicle to transform a vision into an item of value. It requires both leadership and management. Understanding which parts to use at what time is the challenge. Corporate leaders set the vision and define the culture for the company; project leaders contribute to that vision by defining the vision for the project and leading a team that will deliver it. If we do not imbue the qualities that build value within our project, success will be elusive.
In nearly 30 years of dealing with companies large and small, I have seen many masters of balancing these two talents. Following are 11 key traits for you to follow and mimic their success.
Management: Attaining Compliance
Management is the easier task. You direct and remain accountable. However, strictly managing limits your growth. Management is about applying processes, attaining compliance, and measuring performance against goals.
1. Hire Expertise. Bringing in a person to fill a void is wrong. It is better to do without than to endorse mediocrity. Always hire the right people for you project —the ones that align with your vision.
2. Mind the Constraints. Scope, schedule, and budget, pick two and only two. The project manager determines the third. Trying to edict all three is the definition of a failure waiting to happen.
3. Apply Process Properly. The virtue of process is that it stifles creativity. This is good; creative accounting got us nowhere. Process compliance is at the core of management. Improper use of process creates bureaucracy. Properly applying process provides your customers with consistency.
4.Use Technology Cautiously. Humans are stuck in a duality—we are averse to change and enamored with technology. Since technology can replace the non-cognitive parts of a job, people want to use it. Automation, though, usually needs new processes. That requires change. The result is that we automate old and ineffective methods to try to gain efficiencies. Never apply technology without first having the proper people and processes in place; otherwise, technology will only make a mess quicker (albeit efficiently).
Leadership: Building Innovative Cultures
To excel we have to be innovative. Projects, by definition (a temporary endeavor to create a unique product or service) are innovative. This requires building a culture around leadership and self-direction.
5. Learn to Compromise. You will never reach perfection. You and your customer have to compromise. It is incumbent upon you to train yourself and your team in the science and art of negotiation.
6. Manage the Goal. Define and manage scope, document decisions, and give the users what they need—question what they want. At first, this sounds like it should come under my list of management tips, but necessary for your success is leading people to what they need. A leader gets people to do something because they want to do it.
7. Maintain Objectivity. Too many project managers are overly passionate about their projects. Rather than rooting for a project like a high-school cheerleader, maintain objectivity. Be passionately dispassionate and determine what attributes of your team members and stakeholders need amplification and what to jettison.
8. Cultivate Teams. Teams find answers. Learn from them. Talk to them. Work with them. Sponsor and support them. Communicate with them. Never do the work for them. Leaders let others lead and support them when they stumble. Let them make mistakes so they can learn and grow. Management means you know how; leadership means they know how.
9. Forget Blame. A culture of blame is the fastest route to failure. Do not search for blame. Once you have found it will only give you fleeting pleasure, there is still a problem to fix. It is an infectious disease creating finger pointing and deception, destroying any team.
10. Heed Denial. To address any problem, you must first admit it exists. A receptive culture devoid of blame, accepting of help, and open to learning will avoid nearly every catastrophic failure. It is an integral part of any innovative culture.
11. Focus on Data. Numbers are truthful, squeeze them hard enough and they will tell you the truth. They cannot lie; it is integral to their job. Rely on data, while avoiding analysis paralysis. Objective data are the foundation of good decisions.
Turning Vision into Value
New business strategies require new capabilities, which beget projects. Projects are how companies grow and survive. Time to market, the biggest factor in financial success, relies on the ability to run projects efficiently and deliver results in the shortest possible time. These 11 traits help build a lean culture focused on speed of implementation. As the leader, you must continually adjust and apply the right mixture of innovation and process. The right balance of leadership and management will grow you and your team.
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