Who Should Lead the Project? – Part 1

who should lead the projectSometimes success or failure for the project is almost determined before the project even gets underway. What I’m talking about it is selecting the right leader for the right project. It’s not an exact formula…if it were then we could bottle it up and sell it for millions. No, there’s no guarantee for project success no matter what you do or who you select to be on the project or to be the lead project manager. But getting the right body in place at the helm can really get the project off on the right foot. The right mix of relevant experience, customer expertise, and resource management skills – given the team chemistry and customer needs – can sometimes make or break the project, no matter how everything else goes.

So, before the project actually gets underway, it’s critical that the right project manager be selected to run the engagement. Depending on the PM infrastructure of the organization, this may be the PMO director selecting the project leader or it may be some other senior manager in the company. Either way, there are definitely several things to consider. Experience with the customer, experience with the technical solution, experience in the industry, and even experience working with the proposed project team may all be factors that need to be considered when selecting the project manager who is going to run the show.

The people skills factor

One thing that must be considered is how well the individual interacts with many different individuals within his own organization as well as the project team and customer – basically all potential stakeholders and beyond. Basically, people skills are at a premium because a wide variety of such skills are necessary to succeed as the project leader. These include:

  • Business acumen
  • Customer service
  • Decision making
  • Delegation
  • Conflict management and resolution
  • Negotiation
  • Coaching
  • Career development
  • Communication
  • Active listening
  • Cross functional thinking
  • Meeting management
  • Networking
  • Political savvy
  • Team building
  • Time management
  • And many others…

Other background considerations

Beyond the people skills listed above, there are other specific individual characteristics and experiences that need to be considered. Some projects require a certain certification level. Others may require a background check and possibly a top-level security clearance. It’s sad, but you may soon find in a situation like this that not everyone in your organization – and not every PM in your PMO – can actually qualify to work on such a project or contract. It doesn’t mean you need to fire them (well, depending on what information comes back from such a revelation), but it will forever affect what you can assign those resources to. I was hired by a professional services organization servicing the hospitality and gaming industry here in Las Vegas to lead their PMO. I was hired because I was good at what I do. But I was also hired because I could pass all background checks, had previously held a top-level security clearance on a government project and could easily obtain the sheriff’s card necessary to fill such a role. Sadly, even the vice president who was hiring me could not qualify for the role.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll look at some of the potential PM and organizational infrastructure differences that can make it easier or harder to manage projects and resources – depending on the individual PM’s characteristics. These, too, are important things to consider when choosing your project leaders for a given project in a given environment.

Brad Egeland
Brad Egeland

Noteworthy accomplishments:
*20 year provider of successful technical project management leadership for clients across nearly every industry imaginable
*Author of more than 4,000 expert professional project management and business strategy articles, eBooks and videos over the past decade
*Articles/professional content receives over 40,000 page views monthly
*Named #1 in the 100 Most Inspiring People in Project Management
*Named a Top 10 Project Management Influencer to Follow in 2016
*The most read author of expert project management content on Project Times/BA Times for 2015
*Named most prolific provider of project management content over the past 5 years
*Noted for successful project management and financial oversight for $50 million Dept. of Education financial contract/program
*Chosen by the Dept of Defense as a subject matter expert (SME) to help select IWMS software provider for the largest IWMS implementation ever awarded

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