Sunday, 13 May 2012 00:00

Projects Need Leadership, Not Management

Rate this item
(0 votes)
¿Le gustaría leer este artículo en Español?

Acceda al PDF aquí
O... léalo en el sitio web de http://www.projectcharter.com

"Project management is easy. We have been managing people for hundreds of years. Just take any manager, give them a project, and tell them to get it done." Experienced project managers will accurately predict the end of this story—there is a disproportionate chance this project will fail. Rather than "manager" being the key noun, a leader is required to deliver project value on time and within budget. To distinguish the project manager further—functional managers need only manage subordinates, while successful project managers lead extended project teams. This fundamental difference drastically increases the project manager's scope of the responsibility, since the project team includes an entire flock of stakeholders.

The Project Managers Purview

Scope of Functional and Project Managers Functional managers are primarily responsible for their direct reports—the classical organization chart (refer to lower portion of the figure to the right). On regular occasions, they coordinate with their peers or a boss, but their focus is on their staff. Project managers, on the other hand, must align a much larger array of people. Besides their project team and peers, they have an entire organization chart above them consisting of the project's stakeholders. In actuality, this loosely knit collection could be a significantly larger population than their well-organized subordinate project team.

Where I currently live, near Portland, Oregon, there has been a twenty-year long effort to build a new bridge across the Columbia River. The two, currently steel, structures, one constructed in 1917 and the other in 1958, were built long before seismic design and construction techniques entered into the mainstream. They are arguably the weakest link in the 1400-mile long freeway and only draw-bridges in the interstate highway that traverses Washington, Oregon, and California. There is a legitimate concern about their ability to sustain a reasonably sized trembler. Without a doubt, it will be a massive project building this multimodal, dual-decked, mile-long bridge. It will take thousands of designers, managers, and construction workers. However, consider the stakeholders involved. They include: the federal transportation agencies, the US military (a reserve airbase is nearby), the Coast Guard, two state and two city governments, two transit agencies, light-rail proponents and opponents, bicyclists, pedestrians, local toll-paying citizenry, state tax payers (many hundreds of miles away wondering why they need to pay anything), boaters, businesses, truckers, commuters, environmentalists, and Native Americans, just to name a few. All have special interests; all can muck up the best project plan. Few of them know anything about project management; none of them care about the woes of the project manager. Without a doubt, the project manager will need to navigate more obstacles from the stakeholders than from the team actually building the bridge.

Want to read more?

Strategy, alignment, communication of goals is not easy. Our Vision To Value white paper talks about focusing your team on the key strategic corporate goals and ensuring everyone in your organization knows the direction.

Training Superiors and Stakeholders

Your projects may be much smaller, but they still need project managers that can lead without authority and can train leaders and stakeholders who are ignorant of their project management deficiencies. Never expect executives and sponsors to know what project managers need to properly execute their jobs. It is paramount that project managers use these people as tools to get the project completed, which means training them on their jobs. Project managers must unapologetically assign them tasks just like everyone else on the project. They work for the project manager. The sooner everyone realizes this, the better the project will run.

To underscore the point, think back on the last few sponsors you saw assigned to projects. Did they want to be in that role? Had they done the job before? Did they ask for reports on progress or did they request assignments to help the project? Too often, projects inherit project sponsors as an afterthought—assigned under duress. Sponsors need the project manager's help in delineating what is required of them to make the project successful. This includes clarifying and constraining the project's scope, acquiring subject matter experts, finding the extra money when it is obvious that the project is bigger than anyone thought.

The executives? They should be mentoring project managers, helping with costs, and cutting through the politics. If they are not doing this, the project manager must teach them to do so. Most likely, the project team members understand their project roles; I doubt the leaders and stakeholders do.

Delegating Up

Of course, a project managers' job is to run the project; however, if they are confounded by a problem, it is better to ask for guidance than to flail and fail.

A few years ago, I was called in to fix a project that was going to be 200% over budget and schedule. Yes, 200%. That means three times the cost and three times as long. Sad but true. The product would benefit two departments; only one was funding it. My investigation showed that nearly all of problems were "above" the project in the management hierarchy. The leadership was dysfunctional. A Vice President for the non-funding department requested that one of the project's team members blind-copy her on all emails and communications regarding scope. The VP would then use this information to have her team bias the requirements in her department's favor. Upon discovering this, I bundled up the evidence and trudged into her boss' office—an executive three layers above me in the organization and second-in-command for the multi-billion dollar company. I made my case in a logical and dispassionate manner asking him to stop the covert action. By the time I returned to my desk (three blocks from the executive's office), the reverberations had hit the project team, with a memo reprimanding the use of the blind copy feature. He took care of the situation as I left his office. He wanted to help, he was unaware of the problem, and when he became aware, helped me regain command and control over my project by removing the meddling manager. Less than a month later, I had to invoke the assistance of another executive, this time the VP of Information Technology, asking him to stop the drone of negativism from one manager regarding my recovered project's team. The offender apologized for hindering our progress. Executives want to help; we simply need us to tell them what to do.

Success is Contagious

Stepping up and being a leader, helps you, your peers, and the entire organization. Leadership begets success and success is contagious. Peers mimic the victories. Your actions will improve the company's culture and the change sticks because everyone benefits. Change that helps does not meet the same apathetic demise of other change efforts. It only requires that you focus on three directives that lead your leaders:

  • I need you to help me by...
  • I need mentoring on ...
  • I need you to clarify...
Read 41340 times

Related items

  • People vs Process Track Session/Keynote Example

    If you want educational keynote many of our presentations can be keynotes or track sessions. In the example below, the presentation People or Process: Which Impacts Project Success More? is given as a track session.  

    Example People vs Process keynote as a track session

    This session was given at the PMI Sioux Empire Professions Development Day help in Sioux Falls SD on September 9, 2014.

  • Transform Your Project Leadership: For Professionals Leading Projects or Company Initiatives

    Todd Williams contributed Chapter 7, "Leaders Listen." You can buy it on Amazon.

    More coming soon!

  • Filling Execution Gaps: How Executives and Project Managers Turn Corporate Strategy into Successful Projects
    What Filling Execution Gaps Covers

    Filling Execution Gaps

    by Todd C. Williams
    ISBN: 978-1-5015-0640-6
    De G Press (DeGruyter), September 2017

    Project alignment, executive sponsorship, change management, governance, leadership, and common understanding. These six business issues are topics of daily discussions between executives, middle management, and project managers; they are the pivotal problems plaguing transformational leadership. Any one of these six, when improperly addressed, will hex a project's chances for success. And, they do—daily—destroying the ability companies to turn vision into value.

    Check it out on Amazon or the Filling Execution Gaps website

    Without the foundation of a common understanding of goals and core concepts, such as value being critical to success, communication stops and projects fail.

    Without change management, users fail to adopt project deliverables, value is lost, and projects fail.

    Without maintaining alignment between corporate goals and projects, projects miss their value targets and projects fail.

    Without an engaged executive sponsor, scope increases, goals drift, chaos reigns, value is lost, and projects fail.

    Without enough governance, critical connections are not made, steps are ignored, value is overlooked, and projects fail.

    Too much governance slows progress, companies cannot respond to business pressures, value drowns in bureaucracy, and projects fail.

    Without strong leadership defining the vision and value, goals are not set, essential relationships do not form, teams do not develop, essential decisions are not made, and projects fail.

  • Filling Execution Gaps: Building Success-Focused Organizations

    Executives define vision, strategy, and goals to advance the business. Projects enable companies to meet those goals. Between strategy and projects, there is a lot of work to be done—work that lays the foundation for project and operational success. Through experience and research, six common gaps exist in organizations that inhibit project success—an absence of common understanding, disengaged executive sponsors, misalignment with goals, poor change management, ineffective governance, and lackluster leadership.

  • Get Recognized as a Leader: Four Core Leadership Actions

    Leaders make decisions. This requires a core set of actions to gather the best information, hear out the concerns of others, and making a decision that everyone will follow—even if there is not unanimous agreement with the decision. Although there are hundreds of actions leaders must take, there are four core actions that all great leaders do—listening, dialog and discussion, selling a vision, and eliminating blame. This session will discuss those actions in a roundtable format that we call a "What Would You Do?" session. In these sessions, the presenter acts as a moderator spending 10 to 15 minutes per topic working with the audience talking about what the action is, how to best do it, and hearing from the group on how they have carried out the action. This brings significant audience interaction, involvement, and broader education. 

Leave a comment

Filling Execution Gaps

Available Worldwide

Filling Exectution Gaps cover

Filling Execution Gaps is available worldwide. Below are some options.

 

PG DirectLogo
Limited Time Price $20.99
Amazon logo
Book or Kindle
Flag of the United States Canadian Flag Flag of the United Kingdom Irish Flag Deutsche Flagge
Drapeau Français Bandiera Italiana PRC flag
Japanese flag
Bandera de España
Flag of India
Bandera de México
Bandeira do Brasil
Flag of Australia
Vlag van Nederland
DeG Press Logo
Barnes and Noble Logo
Books a Million Logo
Booktopia Logo
Worldwide: Many other
book sellers worldwide.

Rescue The Problem Project

Internationally acclaimed

Image of RPP

For a signed and personalized copy in the US visit the our eCommerce website.

Amazon logo
Buy it in the United States Buy it in Canada Buy it in the United Kingdom
Buy it in Ireland Buy it in Germany Buy it in France
Buy it in Italy Buy it in the PRC
Buy it in Japan
Book sellers worldwide.

Upcoming Events

Other's References

More Info on Project Recovery

Tell me More!

Please send me more information
on fixing a failing project.

Sitemap