“’Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end; then stop.’” -Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Project management is first and foremost the balance of science and art in organizing the critical elements of a project from start to finish. It is temporary and specific. It is a common approach to getting things done at a high level in today’s work world whether it is an individual, department or interdisciplinary team project. Clearly, the key ingredient to successful project management is the project leader. My work with organizations has taught me that while there are numerous characteristics that define a project leader or manager, three qualities in particular produce the best leadership results.
The first characteristic is the ability to cope, adapt and be flexible while leading through change. It is essential to anticipate the consequences of change the project will bring about before the process starts. A buy-in and understanding of those changes needs to be clear to all parties who will potentially be affected. The project management leader serves as a link for the effected groups or individuals who must be informed throughout the project process. The leader must also be in tune with how the project will impact external stakeholders and advocates for the project team.
Second, the project leader has to use his or her skills to acquire and effectively and efficiently utilize those resources needed for successful project results. The successful project manager knows that there are resources more important than the fiscal. For instance, profession time, on task and off task, as well as equipment needs must be considered. These other resources and how they are handled is a juggling act at times and demands skill.
The third factor is a leader’s communication management. How the leader manages the flow of information and coordinating when and to whom information goes is extremely critical. The project’s alignment with the organization’s mission, vision and core values; and how that alignment is secured needs to be communicated in multiple platforms.
These three characteristics of the successful project manager/leader are, in my opinion, at the heart of a positive project outcome. Without effective leaders, success will be nothing more than an elusive target.
“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.” -W. Edwards Deming