Sunday, 29 November 2009 00:00

Don't Be A Project Manager

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In a meeting the other day, one exasperated participant exclaimed, "This isn't part of all the processes I just learned to get my PMP, how am I supposed to run this project?" I bit my tongue and refrained from looking over the top of my glasses and calmly telling him that running a project is a heck of a lot more than a series of check boxes. The poor guy was frustrated and lost. He was truly dumbfounded. His hard-earned certification failed to prepared him for his new assignment.

Initiating Process
  Conduct project selection methods to evaluate the feasibility of new products or services
Identify key stakeholders and perform analysis to gain buy-in and requirements for the success of the project.
Define the scope of the project based on the organization need to meet the customer project expectations.
Develop the project charter and review it with key stakeholders to confirm project scope, risks, issues, assumptions and constraints as well as obtain project charter approval from the project sponsor.
Identify and document high-level risks, assumptions and constraints using historical data and expert judgment.
Planning Process
  Identify key project team members and define roles and responsibilities to create a project organization structure to develop a communication plan.
Create the work breakdown structure with the team to develop the cost, schedule, resource, quality and procurement plans.
Identify project risks to define risk strategies and develop the risk management plan.
Obtain project plan approval from the customer and conduct a kick off meeting with all key stakeholders.
Define and record detail project requirements, constraints and assumptions with the stakeholders to establish the project deliverables.
Develop the change management plan to define how changes will be handled to manage the triple constraints.
Executing Process
  Manage proactively the resource allocation by ensuring that appropriate resources and tools are assigned to the tasks according to the project plan.
Execute the tasks defined in the project plan in order to achieve the project goals.
Ensure a common understanding and set expectations through communication to align the stakeholders and team members.
Improve team performance by building team cohesiveness, leading, mentoring, training, and motivating in order to facilitate cooperation, ensure project efficiency and boost morale.
Implement a quality management plan to ensure that work is being performed according to required quality standards.
Implement approved changes according to the Change Management Plan.
Obtain project resources in accordance with a procurement plan.
Monitoring and Controlling
  Measure project performance using appropriate tools and techniques.
Verify and manage changes to the project scope, project schedule and project costs as defined in the change management plan.
Monitor the status of all identified risks, identify any new risks, take corrective actions and update the risk response plan.
Ensure the project deliverables conform to quality standards established in the project quality plan.
Closing Process
  Formalize and obtain final acceptance for the project.
Identify, document and communicate lessons learned.
Archive and retain project records, historical information and documents (e.g., project schedule, project plan, lessons learned, surveys, risk and issues logs, etc.) in order to retain organizational knowledge, comply with statutory requirements, and ensure availability of data for potential use in future projects and internal/external audits.
Obtain financial, legal and administrative project closure (e.g., final payments, warranties, contract signoff).
Release all project resources and provide performance feedback.
Create and distribute final project report.
Measure customer satisfaction at the end of the project.

It's All About Leadership

Project Management is more than management—it requires leadership. Leadership can be learned, however, there are no checklists to determine if you are a good leader. It cannot be tested for. It comes from an inborn sense or a lot of work in understanding people. Leadership is selling not telling, it is looking past symptoms to find causes, questioning the premise and exploring new avenues for the project and much more.

Want to read more?

Projects take more than managers, they need leaders. Leading is a special set of skills that one needs to hone and develop. We have numerous white papers on the topic. One, Transforming Project Managers Into Project Leaders talks specifically about what a PM must do to become a leader.

Recently Michiko Diby (@ProjectRecovery) and I were sharing mutual frustration about the emphasis on process and the lack of the people component. Without the people component, there is no leadership. The conversation was predicated on her post on the eighteen leadership principles Colin Powell.

I start thinking about the gentleman in the meeting and how he had to classify his experience into the five process groups. (I have enumerated them to the right, straight from the PMP® application form.) There are few things were missing:

  1. Team building;
  2. Paying attention to the needs of the team;
  3. One-on-one meetings with team members;
  4. Conflict Resolution;
  5. Mediating solutions between the customer and project team;
  6. Clearing the road blocks;
  7. Project feedback into the organization to apply corrective actions to problem's root causes;
  8. Ownership and resolution of issues;
  9. Questioning the organization;
  10. Accountable for the team's actions;
  11. Stepping in to break a stalemate in a debate;
  12. Absorbing the ambiguity in the project;
  13. Being objective;
  14. Addressing problems with concise clear decisions;
  15. Stopping finger pointing;
  16. Fostering a cooperative working environment between projects.

This list can go on.

The rebuttal comes that leadership is encompassed in the bullet "Improve team performance by building team cohesiveness, leading, mentoring, training, and motivating in order to facilitate cooperation, ensure project efficiency and boost morale." Very wrong. First, this statement assumes a team, the leader needs to build the team. Second, leadership starts early—before initiation and lasts all the way to the end of the project. It help to simply move this into the Monitoring and Controlling process group.

Michiko, by the way, has a great set of articles on leadership focusing on the leadership principles of Colin Powell. My favorite is her November 4 blog. However, her initial article enumerates Colin Powell's eighteen points and include a great PowerPoint® covering those points.

Getting Back To The Point

Any good project manager actually spends more of their time on any project trying to achieve those bullets above, without them the processes fail. Where is the impetus for a group of people to follow some process from some dude (or dudess) with a bunch of spreadsheets? I will state what I have said before, a project does not fail because the earned value analysis was not done right; it is only a process that fails. These mundane functions of earned value analysis, change request processing and action items logs should be left to administrators. The project manager should questioning the need for the process and ensuring it brings value to the customer. Forming and leading the team is too important.

There Is Hope...

To PMI's defense, version 4 of the PMBOK® does have more soft-skills content, including a five page appendix on interpersonal skills. This is simply too little. Processes are needed but they are truly the lesser of the ingredients in the project management pie. Processes are easy. Leadership is hard.

PMI would be doing business a great benefit if they would invest energy in leadership and defocusing on process for their certification. Project managers and their stakeholders need to get out of their chairs, quit entering tick marks in the spreadsheet check off lists and lead. They need to get up, turn around and look outside their cubicle at the people and the project, talk to them, listen to them, compare notes and understand why they are not coming to you with their problems. Otherwise, in Colin Powell's terms, the team will lose "confidence that you can help them or conclude that you do not care."

Don't Be A Project Manager, Be A Project Leader

As for the guy in the meeting? I gave him some pointers in private; he looked at me and asked why he got his certification. I tried again, making no progress. Later, I emailed him links to some good articles (including @UnlikeBefore's blog post) and suggested a couple books. Maybe he will figure it out before too long.

Lastly, I need to say Happy Birthday to Mom. She would have been 91. May she rest in peace.

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