Where to With Project Management?

Time to sip and reflect
Time to sip and reflect: where to with Project Management?

I invite you to take a moment to sit and reflect on where project management is heading. Project Management was established in the 1950’s as a discipline to address massive work that needed to be organised and managed, with scheduling techniques being the primary tool supporting the process. Subsequent decade’s saw quality management, risk management, stakeholder management and other practices, developed and incorporated into project management. Project management was lifted from being a discipline towards being recognised as a profession.

Traditional project management practices focus on delivering scope on time and within budget and fit within the sociological concept of Achievement Consciousness[1]. As part of normal human development, when we are around the age of 13 we enter a stage of consciousness where we become aware of competence, composed of achievement and relationship. Western boys tend to strongly focus on achievement. Western girls are a little more interested in relationships, but still strongly driven by the culture on achievement. Eastern boys and girls are more oriented to relationships. Sociological theory suggests that when we master the spectrum, fully incorporating achievement and relationship into our practices, a new level of consciousness and way of being opens up, Authentic Consciousness. The way in which we function at that level is wholly different to how we are under Competency Consciousness. Stakeholder Management is an achievement-oriented attempt to deal with relationships, but its purpose is more about achieving than the realism and authenticity of being in relationship.

At the moment there is a lot of energy around the implementation and use of Agile project management. Agile methods are a welcome and positive advancement in project management. Agile extends our mastery of Competency Consciousness towards real relationships, seeking to deliver early value using small activity increments, and staying connected with the ever-changing needs of stakeholders and the project environment. However, it is still achievement-oriented in nature, another way and hopefully better way of dealing with relationships in a project context.

Each new advance feels like a relief in terms of insight and addressing issues. However, I look forward to relationships being genuinely considered, and authenticity and honesty existing, in delivering projects, including:

  • Working openly and fully with contributing, receiving and affected stakeholders;
  • Within and between teams, with the culture, values and way of being with each other holding as much value as the outputs;
  • Communication between senior management and the project manager and team being a true two-way exchange driven by mutual respect and interest;
  • Effective partnering with suppliers and other external parties.

These qualities do exist within environments where an organisation recognises the value of full engagement and high trust, but they are the exception. Agile as a practice cannot work effectively unless there is a real shift in attitude and approach, and that is a small step towards what I see as the real change in approach that needs to take place. Agile does attend to relationships more fully than has generally been the case to date. It has limited efficacy in environments where management are in the old paradigm of delivering scope within strict time and cost boundaries. It works best at providing incremental value to stakeholders within small delivery cycles that respond to the dynamically changing environment. Nothing kills success quicker than applying old rules to new practices. Rigid control must change to allow a new way to emerge. All of this is part of opening to a new level of consciousness and genuinely engaging with a way of being that produces outstanding results. Authentic relationship is counter to the traditional command and control approach, requires change in attitudes and behaviours across organisations, and holds important keys to unlocking performance across teams and organisations.

Achievement orientation fosters competition. Collaboration tends to lead to creative problem solving and rich solutions. Both are important. High trust and engagement enables ideas to flow, innovation to emerge, and creativity to expand. Sitting with me, as I drink my coffee, is the question “How can we unleash and apply the full potential of everyone involved in creating solutions?”

[1] Wade, J. (1996). Changes of Mind: A Holonomic Theory of the Evolution of Consciousness. USA: State University of New York Press.

Choosing a Project Manager

Qualities sought in project managers
Qualities sought in project managers

Choosing the right person for a Project Manager role is crucial if you are to gain the benefits you seek. Those benefits are likely to include delivery of your project(s) in alignment with objectives (scope, time, cost, quality, stakeholders, benefits realisation, strategic fit etc.), team leadership and development, and possibly strengthening of project practices and processes. The right person for the role will have the required competence and will have a good cultural fit with the organisation.

Competence is commonly defined as Knowledge, Skills and Abilities. Knowledge needs to include an understanding of tools, techniques, and skills identified as good practice across a broad range of project environments. It may be important to consider specific technical and industry requirements, whether that be non-project management certifications and specific knowledge, experience and practices that are demonstrably beneficial for projects in your environment. Skills are assessed through a review of their track record of delivery, particularly within an environment comparable to the environment you’re seeking to apply her or him and Abilities will include verbal and numeric reasoning, emotional and social intelligence, behaviours, attitudes, perceptions and beliefs.

The leading KSA (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) for Australian and New Zealand industries (Ahsan, Ho & Khan, 2013), when recruiting (provided in advertising frequency order), include:

  • Communication (reporting, presenting, relations management, and interpersonal skills) (62%)
  • Technical skills (related to the technical area of the project) (44%)
  • Stakeholder management (42%)
  • Cost management (37%)
  • Time management (33%)
  • Educational background (29%)

The first five of these are Skills, the last from Knowledge. The leading Ability is Result-Oriented with 16% of recruitment advertisements identifying.

Cultural fit for the organisation. Key factors to consider include:

  • leadership style (e.g. authoritarian, consultative, facilitative or delegative)
  • behavioural style (e.g. dominance, influence, steadiness, conscientiousness)
  • conflict resolution style (e.g. competing, avoiding, collaborating, compromising, accommodating)
  • personal purpose, values and motivations

These factors can greatly impact the Project Manager’s ability to engage key stakeholders, manage the performance of project teams and suppliers and raise and resolve issues.

None of these items, can be taken for granted when bringing someone in to manage a project. Some of the more important cultural items may also be covert, not even recognised by the organisation but very real for a person coming into it. The fact that there may not be a cultural fit is not necessarily a problem in some areas. Perhaps a different approach is precisely what is required. Be aware that any differences between culture of the organisation and the culture of the project manager will manifest as rubbing and potential conflict, and will need to be adequately resolved for effective results. In my experience, it is often the organisation that struggles with the approach of the project manager more than the reverse, given the PM arrives with a mandate to create something at least a little different, and encounters rigidity from the establishment that holds inertia against change.

Once the initial selection has been made, many other factors need to be addressed such as compensation and benefits, working conditions etc. However, as a recruiting organisation clearly indicates to the market what they seek in a project manager, a better capacity for candidates to self-select exists, and recruitment against clear criteria assists organisational selection of their next PM.

References

Ahsan, K., Ho, M. & Khan, S. (2013). “Recruiting project managers: a comparative analysis of competencies and recruitment signals from job advertisements”. Project Management Journal, October 2013, 44(5), 36-54.