Over time, ‘project management’ has become an increasingly overused, nebulous buzzword. Much like the “Internet of Things,” “Design Thinking,” or “Backpacking through Europe,” it has become progressively challenging to pinpoint what someone really means when they refer to it.
This is in part due to healthy and organic efforts by organizations to understand their shortcomings to successful project execution, in turn establishing tools, processes, and even entire business functions to mitigate the problem. The only issue is that often these efforts were reactively rushed into versus being thoughtfully woven into the business structure, which can actually create bottlenecks and slow projects down.
In professional services, it has become increasingly important to clearly define what is meant by including a project manager or project management workstream into a project or proposal. Beyond the spreadsheets, PowerPoints, and the other tools in the tool belt, here are four keys to enable value-driven project management:
Build Trust to Drive Progress
Building trust takes time, vulnerability, and hard work. Once established, however, it yields deeper partnerships and collaboration that can help expedite value creation. Trust allows you to challenge without being perceived as adversarial. It allows you to communicate directly, not using vague language for fear of admitting fault or bad news. Being deliberate and genuine in establishing trusting relationships gets rid of the interpersonal ‘fluff’ so you can focus on what is important.
Adjust to the Culture
Not all organizations are created equal, and not every out-of-the-box tool in your toolbox is going to be effective. It’s important to be hyper-aware of cultural limitations and opportunities as you strategize about how best to effectively manage teams and goals. It requires some additional thought equity, but ultimately this type of professional agility to flex certain project management muscles at the right times will yield better results.
Connect the Dots
You don’t have to be an expert in all areas of the business to manage projects effectively. In fact, attempting to do so may work against you. However, being not only conscious of, but understanding and strategic when navigating around agendas and inter-dependencies translates into a more attentive and driven project team. It allows project managers to ask the right questions, communicate effectively, and ultimately drive specific projects through inevitably complex environments.
Lead with Empathy
It’s commonly discussed in leadership seminars and every management book you’ve read, but it’s easier in theory than practice. We’ve all had experiences with things like conflicts in meetings, or not understanding the reason behind decisions (or indecisions, for that matter). A deliberately empathetic approach to managing your teams and in turn, your projects, helps to manage through situational adversity. With a variety of personalities, backgrounds, and career levels, not to mention the collective cultural differences across departments, effectively managing these environments can be challenging! Placing effort into better understanding ‘why’ as it relates to your people and your teams will allow for more strategic communications, reduce unnecessary friction, and help drive successful project execution.
When all is said and done, what matters is successful, impactful business outcomes. Getting there requires more than simply box-checking and timeline-updating. Dynamic environments and complex problems require thoughtful, adaptable approaches, and project management is no different.
Brian Johnson is a Manager in AC Lordi’s Business Advisory practice. He is an experienced project manager with expertise in organizational effectiveness, project and change management efficiency, and leadership strategy. He has overseen large initiatives for technology selection and implementation, and road map development and implementation in industries that include media and telecommunications, insurance, pharmaceutical, banking, and retail. If you need help with executing or developing value-driven project management strategies to accelerate your business objectives, you can reach Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org.