Leadership is one of the most elusive disparities in project management. All successful project managers are not always the most successful leaders. Many of us probably have experienced interacting with such project managers wondering how these managers were able to meet their project goals without having the ability to motivate people and develop a cohesive team. The answer is that these managers were lucky enough to have team members who were passionate about their jobs and delivered the results, which helped the project managers to be successful.
The challenge is that project management skills can e obtained through courses, certifications, and degrees but there are not such tools available to become an effective leader. On paper, project management skills may seem easy to develop. After all, project managers have a project team, schedule or project deadline, and budget to maintain. People may believe that everything should fall in place as long as the project managers “stay on top for thing” – right – only if we all lived in a perfect world. Project managers have a very complicated and challenging job.
They are constantly dealing with changing project demands, personnel issues within the project teams, corporate ultras that do not support change, and other organizational changes taking place during the project life cycle. Effective project managers have learned and mastered the skill of effective leadership because they understand the value and importance of people and acknowledge that all projects are ultimately delivered by people! This paper examines the traits of effective leadership and explains what project managers are expected to do as leaders while proving their effective project management skills.
Strategic Vision For much of the twentieth century project management stressed procedural, managerial and operational functions that focus on coordinating and controlling internal and external resources. As a consequence, project managers and teams are typically focused on operational performance by meeting time, budget and technical goals. These activities are essential but in recent years, issues like the rapid rate of technological change and globalization have made today’s business environment more dynamic than ever.
At the same time, cross-functional project based work has proliferated. As a result, researchers and practitioners alike have increasingly stressed that the nature of project management must change as ell. While efficiency and operational issues remain important, many argue that organizations can be more successful when they encourage and empower their project managers to function as, “Strategic leaders who take total responsibility for project business results” (Current Issues in Technology Management summer 2004).
Project managers should improve their strategic eyesight by analyzing their group or organization’s internal and external strengths and limitations. Following five key areas can be considered while conducting internal analysis: 1. Operational factors (i. E. , the efficiency, speed, and cost- effectiveness) 2. Product or technical factors (i. E. , the product line quality or innovative capacity of organization) 3. Customer factors (i. E. , the relationships and solution capacity available within the organization to meet customer needs) 4. Financial factors (i. E. The level of financial stability in the organization) 5. People factors (i. E. , the quality of your workforces intellectual capital and job- related skills) Strategic vision can be directed to the following areas to analyze external factors: 1. Industry changes (i. E. , challenges to growth and the basic equines model) 2. Customer expectations and demographics 3. Government regulations 4. Human capital (i. E. , the available talent pool) (Warren Blank: The 108 Skills of Natural Born Leaders, 2001) Priorities Project managers’ priorities are evaluated through their actions and interests.
If a project manager defines a certain project extremely critical but spend most of his or her time working on another project, the project team would receive a wrong signal in terms of priority of the project that is declared as critical. Project managers’ questions also indicate the level of importance and rarity of a certain task or issue that requires attention. In an organization practicing portfolio management system, the wrong leadership selection immediately sends damaging signals about priority, collaboration, and resources across the organization.
Bungled project leadership appointments – inept technical skills, project management and/or facilitation skills – derails and overburdens a well-targeted project due to rework, deterioration of cross- functional collaboration, and clumsy communication. Senior leaders repeatedly get caught up in the dilemma of every initiative being deemed an ‘A” priority. Effective project leaders lobby and compete for the active personal and political support by boards and senior leadership in their project. There are just so many projects and initiatives that the senior team can sponsor and monitor.
There is an implicit line below which there is no real time, no excitement, no personal payoff – the juice is just not worth the squeeze. These “no wow” initiatives often fail to get fully airborne as they meander along, searching for senior sponsorship, and consuming political capital and material resources. (http://WV. Entrepreneur. Com/traduced renal/article/188646463. HTML) Problem Solving “The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with but whether it’s the same problem you had last year” Cohn Foster Dulles).
Project managers enable others how to tackle problems through their own approach to these problems. Problem solving should be executed in the following step-by- step process that results in implemented actions: 1. Understand The Problem o Get a solid grip on the issues o Gather as much relevant information as is available to obtain a good understanding of the situation from all perspectives o Develop a list of all he stakeholders and their needs and expectations 1. Define The Problem o Who was involved? o What happened? o When it took place? Where it happened? o Why it occurred? o How it took place? 2. Consider Your Values o Are there any conflicts? o How does this reflect on the values of the organization as well as your own set of moral principles? o Can a resolution be made that supports organization’s values? 3. Identify The Root Cause o List all possible causes of the issue and prioritize them based on facts and observations o Limit list of root causes to as few as possible 4. Choose A Solution Look for more than one solution before picking the best.
The best solution should be the one that: o Is easiest to implement o Has the lowest cost o Satisfies as many stakeholders as possible o Is most compatible with your values 5. Implement The Solution Continue to monitor the situation to ensure the issue has been resolved. (ICY Charley: The Leader’s Tool Kit, 2006) Team Building and Collaboration It is ultimately the team that will complete the work of the project. The team members’ cohesiveness, satisfaction, and ability to get the job done are paramount to successful project management.
Many project teams are handed a scope of work, time frame, and budget and are asked to execute the project. Yet they are not given a chance to understand the factors and often have no input into the planning whatsoever. This scenario breeds apathy and can be disheartening. The project manager needs to understand the importance of the team relationship and how he or she should utilize the team’s potential to its fullest. A successful project manager will not only recognize the team’s value but also will communicate this to the team, so that they are aware of their value.
Following steps can be taken to build an effective team: 1. Develop shared goals and objectives 2. Create well defined structure and roles. Communicate effectively with members of your team and let them know the importance of their role in the whole project. They also need to know how the project relates to the overall objectives of the organization 3. Establish agreed upon ground rules 4. Establish standard of performance 5. Demonstrate enthusiasm. If you can’t motivate yourself, you’ll not motivate your team 6. Ask for and listen to team’s input during planning phase 7.
Develop a plan that is centered on the team’s ability to understand and complete the deliverables 8. Consistently solicit feedback and offer encouragement to the team 9. Relentless follow up on resources and understanding where they are and what they need to complete their tasks 10. Demonstrate full involvement in decisions that are complex, require creative solution, and need the commitment of the members to the outcome 11. Foster an environment that thrives on creativity and empowerment. 12. Approach obstacles with courage and don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself and your project team 13.
Seek for solutions and ideas that serve all stakeholders and support organization’s strategic vision 14. Lessons learned meetings (Rick A Morris with Brett Micrometer Somber: Project Management That Works, 2008) Ethics and Communication Business ethics have been given several definitions and in my opinion, it means as knowing the difference between right and wrong at the work place and always doing what is right for the business, stakeholders, and community. Ethical dilemmas involve situations where it is difficult to determine whether conduct is right or wrong. So what types of ethical dilemmas project managers face?
Let’s examine a few: 1. Falsely assure customers that everything is on track when, in reality, the goal is to prevent them from panicking and making matters worse 2. Stretch the truth to obtain additional funding and resources 3. Stretch project time lines by making the project activities look more difficult So how does a project manager deal with these ethical dilemmas? The notion of “Honesty is always the best policy” suits very well to project management. Project managers must understand that they have a difficult and complicated job because their bob involves many gray areas of judgment and interpretation.
They continue to battle with unrealistic expectations, limited resources, unreasonable schedules and project completion deadline, and unrealistic budgets. These factors can force project managers to deliberately falsify the estimates or substantially lower the expectations on project deliverables. Project managers must think through the issues and formulate plans based on their private sense of right and wrong. In my opinion, ensuring ethical conduct does not guarantee that one can become a successful project manager because effective project management is comprised of many skills such as communication, planning etc.
However, unethical conduct can almost guarantee a failed project or a failed project manager. Communication is a key ingredient to honesty and transparency. Project managers need to communicate all news: good or bad, to ensure they do not unintentionally falsify any status update provided to the customer. For example, it is difficult to distinguish deliberate falsification of estimates from genuine mistakes or the willful exaggeration of project pay off from genuine optimism. It comes problematic to determine whether unfulfilled promises were deliberate deception or an appropriate response to changing circumstances.
This is where communication and transparency plays a vital role to ensure the conduct is perceived highly ethical. To provide better understanding and greater clarity to business ethics, many companies and professional groups publish a code of conduct. These codes of conduct are important because they are perceived as first step to share a company or group’s vision regarding business ethics. One common rule of thumb for testing whether a response is ethical is to ask, Imagine that whatever you did was going to be reported on front page of your local newspaper.
How would you like that? Would you be comfortable? ” Unfortunately, scandals at Enron, World, and Arthur Anderson have demonstrated the willingness of highly trained professionals to abdicate personal responsibility for illegal actions and to obey the directives of superiors. Top management and the culture of an organization play a decisive role in shaping members’ beliefs of what is right and wrong. Many organizations encourage ethical transgressions by creating a ‘Win at all cost” mentality. The reassures to succeed obscure consideration of whether the ends justify the means.
Other organizations place a premium on “fair play” and command a marker position by virtue of being trustworthy and reliable. Many project managers claim that ethical behavior is its own reward. By following you own internal compass you behavior expresses your personal values. Others suggest that ethical behavior is doubly rewarding.