Project management
Start with a vision of the end

When starting the project, we want to believe that everything will go according to the assumptions and plan, but the longer the project lasts, the more people involved in the topic, the greater the likelihood of unforeseen or unlikely events. Design reality often deviates from the classic approach to the project's lifeline, divided into phases: project initiation, its planning, implementation and completion. Even this classic approach is rarely fully implemented, because the project usually lacks time for its thoughtful closing. Project summary is not only the celebration of success and its communication in the company, but a critical analysis of what happened in the project and how the organization, the leader and the team coped with it. It's learning from mistakes, including unused opportunities. It is only valuable if, in addition to analysis and reflection, it results in specific conclusions and actions for subsequent projects.

Starting the project, we enthusiastically set goals and principles, plan resources, deadlines, methods, and separate tasks in a team. We are often very optimistic about this stage, believing that reality and people will favor us.

However, most of the projects in progress are faced with a reality that differs from the assumptions. The project is no longer linear, that is, straight to the goal, and difficulties begin that slow down or stop the project. Then, instead of the current direction of the project, there is a loop ... something called a circular process. Until we stop in the project management process to resolve the situation, the project will not return to the linear dimension and the assumed direction of implementation.

Be ready for anything, prepared for nothing

What can happen unexpected in the project? Actually everything, however, to the list of the most popular unexpected events in the project or its surroundings include:

  • sudden personnel changes in key positions related to the project (e.g. project leader, project sponsor)
  • changes in organizational strategy
  • conflict of interest / in a team
  • change of project goals and scope
  • high staff turnover
  • change of priorities
  • inadequate methods / tools
  • budget limitation
  • departure of experts or external consultants.

The task of the Project Leader is to diagnose the situation - what happened and how this event affects or may affect the project, as well as the selection of methods for further proceedings, as well as providing the necessary resources and developing adequate solutions. Since most of the so-called crises in the project have a personal aspect, specific skills are required to solve them.

Project Manager is not enough ...

 The classic, i.e. linear approach to project management, brings the project manager's tasks to the English acronym POLCA, which can be developed as follows:

  • P - planning, i.e. defining the goals and main tasks of the project
  • O - organization, i.e. determining resources, working on project coordination and making decisions
  • L - project leadership, i.e. giving direction, project management, motivating the team and subcontractors and communicating about what is happening in the project
  • K - control, i.e. project reporting and reporting, disciplining implementation and ensuring the quality of results, error correction, etc.
  • A - and achieving goals, i.e. assessment of effectiveness.

At a time when "everything is constantly changing", i.e. in the VUCA world known as: Volatility - volatility, Uncertainty - uncertainty, Ambiquity - ambiguity, Complexity - complexity, the requirements for the project leader are greater. Classic roles such as: leadership, being an expert, designing solutions, implementing a project, and diagnosing situations are no longer sufficient to carry out tasks. In the event of difficulties in the project or crises, roles focused on the interpersonal aspects of team management take on significance, such as:

  • coach and mentor
  • facilitator
  • change agent.

The purpose of these roles is to diagnose a situation that hinders project progress and to develop solutions acceptable by the team or the environment. These roles require not only specific interpersonal skills, but above all awareness of what is happening in the project not only with tasks, but with people and the environment, and what and how can be done with it. As the experience of many projects shows, these are key skills that determine the continuation of the project, its success or lack.

The smartest in the room ...

Project Leader is a person who is responsible not only for the project, but also for the people involved in the project. Crises in the project are a stage of project development as well as team formation. A positive solution to the crisis or difficulties determines not only the success of the project but also the long-term effectiveness of the solutions implemented as a result of the project. It also builds an effective and effective team, develops the competences of people involved in the project.

Successful teams mainly develop from crisis to crisis. It is the way of dealing with them that shapes and develops the team and builds the authority of the leader ... "the storm reveals the true captains". "To be the smartest in the room" does not mean having above-average knowledge or skills, a charismatic personality. It is more about wisdom defined as the willingness and the ability to apply the knowledge in practice, but also the awareness of the limitations of one's own knowledge and openness to outside help.

As research shows, team management is an often underestimated task of a project leader, often numbers and procedures obscure people. And it is worth remembering that the way we work with people affects the success of the project in as much as 70%. And here it is worth asking the question how much real time does the project leader spend on his team and its individual members? It is worth remembering that project team management is about developing people with each project and entering a higher level of competence. The task of the project leader is to make his team not only achieve the intended above-average results, but also grow in strength - "grow your team". Leadership is not only about being responsible for the project, but caring for the people you are responsible for.

Author: Ewa Ginalska

Ewa Ginalska, project manager, certified trainer and management consultant, image advisor, accredited CSR advisor.

He specializes in the areas of: management systems, leadership, image, project management, including work with demanding project teams. He has over 15 years of managerial experience as a representative of integrated management systems, quality management system, Quality Manager, Quality Manager of the Research Laboratory, HR manager and manager of development projects and New Business Manager. In 2017-2018, he was the vice-president for sales and promotion of the MATRIK Association of Consultants and Management Trainers. Team leader for developing the Management Consultant's Code of Professional Conduct. Author of numerous publications on consulting, management systems and leadership, university lecturer.

The article was prepared as part of the ProBio Małopolska project