The psychology behind true project success

To be a great project manager you need to go beyond mastering the standard project management tools and techniques.

Greatness has to do with seeking out other sources of inspiration, and then applying this information to effectively lead projects.

Most of us have attended those two-day project management courses where they teach basic training such as work breakdown structures, creating timelines, project risk, critical path, etc.

Unfortunately those courses alone don’t prepare you for the real world of managing projects. To be great, you need to elevate yourself beyond the basics and into the stratosphere of 21st century leadership.

Throughout the project manager’s day, real project management is about successfully navigating through that corporate whitewater commonly known as the matrix organization.

The matrix organizational structure is that place where there are rigid, seemingly overly bureaucratic systems, processes and rules. Obstacles exist that thwart the project manager’s quest to get the project done on time.

To successfully cut through this quagmire, the project manager must become a crafty warrior who uses planning, negotiating and consensus-building as weapons to engage change. The agile project manager creates allies rather than adversaries. He or she finds win-win solutions rather than wasting energy plundering the opposition. The great project manager does not manage at all, he or she leads. And if you are not dead clear on the difference between management and leadership, you have brought me back to my point. To be great, the 21st century project manager need not read any more books on project management. To become great, PMs must seek out higher sources of guidance and inspiration.

One source of inspiration for those aspiring to become great PMs, is Stephen Covey’s The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness. So what is this latest habit? The 8th habit, which pirouettes on top of Covey’s other 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is simply this: “Find your voice and inspire others to find their voice.”

I think this book should be required reading for all PMs.

First, this book is all about how to be successful in today’s complex organizational environment. The challenges of trying to get a project done in a matrix organization, where the PM has total responsibility but no ordained authority, is a plight all too familiar to the modern PM. This book reminds us that we have the power within ourselves to choose to be leaders — by expanding our circle of influence, despite the fact that we have no given authority.

Secondly, Covey reminds us that inspiring others to lead is the key to achieving quantum leaps in team effectiveness. In that regard alone, this book is perhaps the best personal coach that a PM can have. I have always believed that the pinnacle of leadership is to inspire others to lead.

Robert Black is president of Project Masters Inc. and has 22 years experience working in the IT sector.
rblack9@cogeco.ca.

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