In Part 2 of this two part series on signs leadership may be missing from a project, we’ll look at five more indicators – in no particular order of importance. The idea is if you recognize any of these…either run or fix them…quickly.
Team members are trying to be heroic. That is, they try to do everything themselves and be all things to all people. They eventually start to over control and in the end, as many experienced project managers know, control very little, even themselves. They fail, for example, to delegate.
Hard skills rather than soft skills are being emphasized. Hard skills are scheduling and statistical analysis; soft skills are active listening and writing. It is not uncommon for project managers of technical projects to disparagingly refer to soft skills as “touchy-feely.” Yet time and again, studies have shown that soft skills can prove as critical, indeed more so, in a project’s success.
The selection of the project manager seems to be a popularity contest. Senior managers often select people they like or who are like themselves, who may or may not have the attributes of a project leader. Getting the right person in the role – a true leader – can make all the difference in the world. If the PM is selected as a favor or as a personal favorite, disaster may ensue.
There is a failure to recognize that leadership is ongoing. It starts at the beginning and continues throughout the project cycle. Yet especially with long-term projects, managers tend to forget about inspiring people and their leadership assumes a posture of benign neglect. We can’t rely on leadership to just get our project out of the gate, so to speak. It is needed in the beginning to get off on the right foot, at each milestone or phase, during user acceptance testing (UAT), and deployment. And sometimes beyond. The customer will know when it is lacking. Believe me, they will know.
There is a tendency toward window dressing rather than dealing with substantive issues. Window dressing concentrates on images; substantive issues probe the root causes. While looking good has its immediate advantages, too much emphasis on image can have deleterious effects as the underlying problems persist and become more acute.
Project leadership is not the same as project management. And when it is truly lacking, it can be very painful for the project, the project team, and the customer. A customer whose project is not really being “led”…but is merely being “managed” is not likely going to be a very confident customer or a very satisfied customer when it comes to your ability to successfully deliver on the project.
How about our readers? When have you witnessed project managers going through the motions on projects only to find themselves failing? Has this happened to you or a colleague? What did you do – or what did they do – to right the situation? How about the customer – what were their feelings about the engagement and how did they react to any changes that were made to start leading the project down the right course?