The Extreme Project Manager’s Leadership Role

Doug is the author of the landmark book, Extreme Project Management®: Using Leadership, Principles and Tools to Deliver Value in the Face of Volatility. He works with clients who undertake projects in very demanding environments: those settings that feature high speed, high change, high unpredictability and high stress. Doug has lived in the trenches—from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to Beijing, China—with over 275 project teams with budgets that ranged from $25,000 to over $25 million. He is one of the founders of the Agile Leadership Network, an organization dedicated to connecting, developing and supporting great project leaders. He is known for his hard-hitting and humorous keynote speeches that address vital issues facing today’s project-based organizations. You can visit Doug at www.dougdecarlo.com.

In my practice, the primary role of the extreme project manager is to gain and sustain commitment to the project mission. Commitment is the energy that propels the project forward. No or low commitment keeps the project stuck: Team members don’t show up for meetings, promises are not kept, deadlines are consistently missed and morale is low. Other telltale signs are customer groups and other stakeholders dragging their feet in giving feedback, making decisions and signing off on approvals. Moreover, people may even proactively seek to kill the project.

Lack of commitment results in what I call a zombie project, a de-energized venture where people barely go through the motions.
 
The Project Context
The PMBOK® Guide, 2000 edition, refers to the project context as the broader environment within which the project takes place. To understand the role of the extreme project manager is to make the distinction between the project’s context and the project’s deliverable or content.

The project’s content refers to the actual development of the project deliverable which could be a system, software solution, service, tangible product, whatever the “thing” is that the team will be delivering to the customer. The content is the responsibility of the technical or subject matter expert. As Thomsett(1) points out, a major difference between extreme project management and traditional …

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