Project Management

Book Review - Mastering the Leadership Role in Project Management: Practices that Deliver Remarkable Results

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(FT Press Operations Management)  Pearson Education (USA). Laufer, Alexander (2012-04-23).

In this book, the author presents eight projects that demonstrate the criticality of leadership to project success. Each project manager with inputs from project team members, describes the challenges of the project and presents details on how leadership skills were crucial to solving these challenges. The projects and the solutions highlight practices of servant leadership and serve to illustrate that leadership and flexibility are far more important than blind adherence to process to the achievement of project outcomes. These project managers understood that they needed to use their leadership ability to bring these projects to fruition. Not once in this book did the author or the project managers talk about standards, best practices, or process. The focus was on problem solving and the sometimes unusual techniques of leadership put into action.

Dr. Laufer ends the book by describing nine practices of leadership and illustrates how the project managers used them in their projects. The practices Dr. Laufer describes are:

  • Embrace the “Living Order” Concept – Projects, especially at their initiation, are chaotic and messy. We may strive for order, but it can never be achieved wholly. Leaders can tolerate chaos and disorder and have ready answers in waiting. Managers seek order and control.
  • Adjust Project Practices to the Specific Context – Successful project managers know when to deviate from “best practices” and standard processes and can adjust their processes to match the project context. There is always the need to strike a balance between relying on the accumulated knowledge of the organization, on the one hand, and enhancing the flexibility and creativity within each individual project on the other.
  • Challenge the Status Quo – Project managers must know when to challenge the status quo. This is often essential to the success of the project and is the essence of project leadership. These project managers take a position of ownership and are guided by one overriding – delivering successful results to the customer.
  • Do Your Utmost to Recruit the Right People – People deliver results, not systems or processes. People make or break a project so it is crucial to have the right people with the right attitude.
  • Shape the Right Culture – Create the right project culture. When project members share the same culture, they develop a set of mutually accepted ideas of what is real in their constantly changing environment, what is important, and how to respond.
  • Plan, Monitor, and Anticipate – Projects are dynamic activities. Project managers must monitor both project performance as well as changes outside their formal boundaries. They must anticipate and plan for irregularities and problems. They must be flexible and adapt as needed.
  • Use Face-to-Face Communication as the Primary Communication Mode – This is the most effective method of communication. It allows for instant feedback as well as non-verbal communication, crucial to effective communication.
  • Be Action-Oriented and Focus on Results –
    • Planning By Action – Use actions and the results of those actions to plan and to revises plans.
    • Management by Hands-on Engagement – Be engaged with the project team. Stay closely involved with the team. This does mean control every detail, rather be aware of what is happening in the project, observe, listen and remove obstacles.
    • Focus on Results – Focus not on tasks completed, but on results accomplished.
  • Lead, So You Can Manage – Managers engage in routine activities, whereas leaders focus on and generate non-routine interventions. Leaders adjust to specific project needs and context. Adaptive problem solving is crucial. Only after the problem is solved can routine management be done.

The eight projects included in this book provide real examples of the nine leadership practices Dr. Laufer describes as essential to project leadership. These projects show how by applying the these practices, the project managers were able to deliver successful project outcomes on eight very challenging projects.

Posted on: August 28, 2012 10:18 AM | Permalink

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