Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Categories: Leadership


Recently I wrote about the non-negotiable attributes of leaders. A lot of the feedback I received asked how we can use these skills in our day-to-day jobs, especially when we're encountering a business culture that doesn't always place emphasis on leadership and long-term thinking. Here are a few ways you can begin applying leadership attributes to your projects, even in challenging circumstances.

  1. Build adaptability into your routine. One of the great challenges of project management is conquering the ever-changing project -- the one with a fluid scope, ill-defined objectives and budgets that fluctuate constantly. This is why building adaptability into your daily routine is essential. And it doesn't have to be complicated. One habit you can adopt right away is to start or end your day with a question like, "What has changed in the last 24 hours that will require me to alter my project plan?" By asking that question, you will keep yourself in the center of the project's changing landscape and be able to react in a proactive manner, rather than having change forced upon you.
  2. Accept mistakes -- and their part in innovation. Organizations often talk about wanting innovation, but then turn around and penalize mistakes. And yet you can often only have better judgment -- and develop innovative solutions -- by making mistakes. If you feel your performance is suffering because you're tying yourself down to routine techniques, try this: Go to the sponsor and explain that you've been thinking about a new way to tackle a challenge. Outline the possible outcomes, risks and mitigation plans when you explain that you feel your team needs to try this new technique. Innovation and advances only occur through new thinking and experimentation, so mistakes can and should be encouraged. They are what enable project managers and teams to develop the judgment necessary to make huge leaps forward. 
  3. View integrity as a way of life. When I talk with project managers, executives and leaders, one thing that comes up frequently is the so-called leadership gap. This "gap" has infiltrated our organizations because we've moved to a culture that spends too much time focusing on the next quarter's profits. In a culture like this, it's difficult to act with the vision and integrity that will foster long-term results. As team leaders in our organizations, we all need to understand that integrity isn't a one-time event, but a lifestyle that shines through in everything we do. To put this into practice, it's important that you start speaking up within your organization. If your project's ambitions don't fit the long-term objectives of the organization, you have to be confident enough to point that out. If you feel that actions are being taken that aren't conducive to success, say something. Doing so isn't going to be easy, but being a leader never is. 

Are you -- and your organization -- willing to carry out these tips toward developing leadership skills? 

Take this project management leadership self-assessment to learn where you stand in six leadership areas.
Posted by David Wakeman on: May 15, 2014 09:50 AM | Permalink

Comments (4)

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Bruce-

Thanks for your comment. I just re-read "Poke The Box" and, yes, I think organizations have gotten managing innovation wrong in a lot of cases.

I think this begins by organizations misunderstanding what innovation is and means. Also, I think innovation isn't tolerated so much because I don't think it doesn't always get attached to the overall strategy of an organization.

New ideas, innovations and alterations don't work all the times rather most of the times and that's the risk most organizations are not willing to take. It might be a good move to take a new idea/ technique to your project sponsor before you try but most of the times it will not be approved due to risk of financial loss, market share and unable to bring profit if that new idea doesn't work. There are very few companies who are willing to try this approach but those who does do gets ahead eventually in log term.

Interesting points of view

Dear David
Interesting reflection
Thanks for sharing

I had the opportunity to answer the self-assessment questionnaire you shared and, above all, the results and tips I received in response to the answers.

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