What makes successful project managers?
I have been interested in the way the best project managers think and behave for a long time. Back in 2005 I wrote the first edition of my first book The Project Manager, Mastering the Art of Delivery. The genesis of this book was an observation made from roles I had running large teams of project managers. The observation? There is limited correlation between how well qualified someone is as a project manager, and how good they are at project management.
A few years ago I went back to the town I went to school in. I met up with some friends I had been to school with, (a long time ago!). When I met my friends they were sitting with an old man who I vaguely recognised. It turned out he had been a teacher at my school. We had a very pleasant evening reminiscing over old times. I enjoyed the company of my old teacher.
On most projects thinking sooner or later turns to stakeholders. Unfortunately, it is usually later rather than sooner. Stakeholder management is regularly kicked off only when there is a problem with stakeholders.
Most organizations face the challenge of repeatedly resourcing projects, and critically allocating good project managers. A common answer is to set up a central project management team.
This can seem relatively easy, but there are pitfalls on the way to setting up a successful project management team. In this article I will look at four key questions anyone setting up a project management team must consider, and then outline the main steps in setting up such a team.
We all do it all the time: we communicate, we interpret and we connect. We communicate through our words, body language, tone, actions and behaviours. And we constantly interpret everyone else’s words and behaviours. We start doing this as soon as we are born. When we get this right we form strong connections.
There is one type of change that results in more eye rolling, cynical comments and coffee machine jokes than any other. I am talking about changes that go under names like “cultural change”, “new values” or “behavioural change”. Announce an initiative of this type and many of your team will be sceptical. They will be sceptical because they have seen it all before. They have observed many cultural change programs previously and noted that nothing really changed as a result of any of them.
Are you involved in change management? Do you take part in conversations about change management? Do you ever find yourself questioning what exactly change management is? It can at times seem like a rather vague discipline to get your head around.
I have just published my latest book, called "Managing Your Team Through Change". I am certain there is space for another book on change management. Two reasons drive this certainty: most books ignore team leaders as a specific audience with particular needs, and most change books do not talk to the messy reality of organizations. If you are a team leader, line manager, or someone who works with, supports or advises team leaders on change – this is the book for you.
Middle management is a really unfashionable topic. But to run an efficient organization it is critical to help middle managers fulfil their roles. My book sets out to do this, in the specific context of change.
I spend my life involved in projects, programs and change initiatives. A part of most of these initiatives is doing some form of stakeholder management. The aim is to engage stakeholders in the work of the program, to get their support in achieving the program goals and in accomplishing sustained change. I have come to realise that stakeholder management is like charity. It starts at home. By ‘home’ I mean with those you are working closest to - the program team itself.
Have you ever been in one of those meetings in which the whole conversation revolves around definitions? Occasionally these sessions are explicitly set up as an exploration of definitions. More often a meeting becomes about definitions when someone says something like “what do you mean by that” or “I don’t understand what you are talking about”.