Projects don’t fail due to lack of process – projects fail due to lack of leadership. That said, there are two approaches to project management; “present & reporting” and “driving & leading”:
Present & Reporting: Far too many project leaders take the ‘present & reporting’ approach. Geared more toward the administrative side of the discipline, this approach focuses on form and function. Minutes are carefully taken and the project plan is meticulously maintained. Risks are delineated, Issues documents and project artifacts are developed and socialized. While these elements of project control are critical to success, they are not the true calling of the effective leader.
It’s not enough for the project leader to know what’s going on and to report events. This is more the role of a project administrator or project coordinator – a supporting role in the overall endeavor. The elements of ‘present and reporting’ are solid risk management tools, ensuring that team performance never falls below an established minimum but they do little to ensure the team attains maximum performance levels.
Driving and Leading: Motivating and influencing your team to achieve its maximum potential requires the ‘driving & leading’ approach. This demands that the project leader live and breathe her project. You might think of this as the ‘project Geek approach’ and that’s not a bad way to think about it. The effective project leader is constantly thinking, talking and acting in the project’s best interests, looking ahead and seeking out opportunities for the team to succeed while also removing obstacles to that success.
An effective project leader must maintain a sense of urgency on the project, constantly seeking ways to communicate to the team and motivate them to action, while not bombarding them with emails, process and administrivia. This is not an easy balancing act and requires focus, clarity in communications, soliciting and heeding feedback, and evangelizing about the goals of the project. Most importantly, it requires the project leader to set the bar high by setting a good example for the entire team.
The effective project leader doesn’t need to know everything about the project; rather, the effective project leader needs to know everything about how to get things DONE on the project and how best to keep the team motivated, informed, focused and executing on a daily basis.
© 2014, Mark E. Calabrese