Effective project management challenges
We have consistently warned against a process-dominated approach to run effective project management. We challenge project managers to think more broadly about the skills and approach they need to be truly effective in the role.
Process plays a crucial role in improving safe governance of projects. However, it should not become the project manager’s ‘comfort zone’. Let us take the example of managing conflict in projects.
Effective project management
Project managers sometimes choose to avoid conflict in projects. They may recognise disagreement over the problem being addressed, the objective or the benefits of a project. However, sometimes project managers may feel these conflicts are intractable, or beyond their capability to resolve, or just ‘too much hard work’.
When this happens, project managers try to compensate for a lack of stakeholder agreement with process, producing a comforting array of technical documentation and gateway sign-offs. However business requirements documents, architecture designs and other project paperwork will not solve an essentially ‘political’ problem: if left unresolved it will eventually resurface as a bigger problem later.
In these circumstances what would be a better approach?
Working with the sponsor to reach the resolution of the underlying conflict? Ensuring that the project can move forward on firmer foundations? Securing senior management support for the project mission?
This requires the project manager to get out of their comfort zone and take a more business outcome focused approach. She or he must approach the project ‘from the outside in’ – talking to the business about strategic outcomes and business issues first, rather than solely concentrating on technical delivery.
How can you, the project manager, gain such insights and skills?
At CITI we advocate that you take up opportunities to project experience a variety of business environments.
This does not necessarily mean that you should ‘job-hop’ from company to company (there are great advantages in building up a supportive network of stakeholder allies over time) but it certainly means refusing to be type-cast as an ‘expert’ in a single technical field. You should not pursue greater depth of technical knowledge (and be aware that this is a tempting comfort zone). Instead you should seek to develop your understanding of business issues, perspectives and language.
If you experience a variety of business project challenges, and learn not to rely on deep technical knowledge, then you will be able to engage your stakeholders much faster and communicate with the business more effectively.
That is why at CITI our assessment tools (used to recruit and develop project professionals) examine attitudes and experience as well as process skills and knowledge.