Category Archives: Project Management

Resurrecting the Project Manager Role

Resurrecting the Project Manager Role

I stopped and blinked at a headline on a Linked In post and choked back a chuckle.

It was titled ‘The Death of The Project Manager’.

The provocative title (for project people, that is) did its work. I clicked in.

The author, a professor named Andre Barcaui, suggests that the increasing use of the Agile approach with a ‘flat’ team dynamic – ‘team leads’ swapped out for guiding ‘coaches’ –  is part of the decline of the project manager’s role.

The second part is the rise of AI (artificial intelligence) and its ability to crunch data sets and proffer logical outcomes and conclusions. Theoretically, this leads to one logical outcome.

He also suggests that decisions made from ‘instinct’ may be not just outdated but even harmful.

And there you have it: ‘The death of the project manager.’

To which I say, “Hold on Huxley, that’s a huge stretch”.

But first a caveat. Christina “CK” Kerley, a top technology futurist, suggests in her speeches and sessions that we want technology to take over tasks – those tasks that require lots of processing but little judgement.

I love having data crunched by tech. That allows me to do critical thinking, the creative problem-solving that is the sweet spot of any project manager or team. There are absolutely large data sets that I am happy to have crunched and parsed for me.

But that isn’t what the article suggests. It sees a world where leaders are replaced by a sort of group dynamic.

Nice try. Groups and teams are essential to the development and production of a project but there always needs to be one that takes the lead and ultimate responsibility for the process and end result.

In practical terms in the scenario by Barcaui, there would be a room full of well-meaning people on deadline day pointing fingers at each other for the failure to deliver. Blaming the AI will never get anyone very far.

The role of the project manager gone?

If you agree that the project manager’s leadership means more than creating massive archives of records, and you agree team dynamics, the culture of the team’s productivity and progress, are primary responsibilities of the leadership role of the project manager, I would suggest that the opposite is true.

Better tools mean the best project leaders will shine, and a project team will stay tightly focused on the process and deadline.

If you believe that how your people shine as project leaders counts, please sign up for KSP Academy where leadership driven project management respects people – and uses tools and methodologies.


Is Happiness at Work Over-Rated?

Is Happiness at Work Over-Rated?

After reading an article from a Robert Half newsletter that I saved in my ‘to post-fodder’ file, I starting thinking about the whole subject from a different angle.  The article’s main suggestions state there are:

  • universal factors that affect workplace happiness
  • unique elements that drive joy for each age group, experience level and industry
  • a link between happiness and performance

This connected in my mind with the book ‘Drive’ by Daniel Pink. He outlines the changes in thinking regarding motivation. Pink’s research into what makes motivation work now versus the old carrot and stick approach is interesting. And it took my curiosity down to this question:

What is the link between what you can call happiness or what I would call motivated performance, and productive performance? And do you need happiness in the workplace or fulfillment?

Just semantics, you say?

I would argue no.  The way that people interpret words ultimately decides what that word means for each of them – and for each of them as they connect with the person who said it. Clearly defining anything in a practical sense includes context.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary: (for brevity I’ve shortened the actual definitions – you can find the full definitions in the hyperlinks)

happiness /ˈhapɪnəs  /
noun [mass noun] the state of being happy:

Hmm. So let’s go one step further with this one.

happy /ˈhapi  /
adjective
(happier, happiest)
1 feeling or showing pleasure or contentment:
2 [attributive] fortunate and convenient:
3 [in combination] informal inclined to use a specified thing excessively or at random:

And now let’s look at the other side of the question:

fulfilment /fʊlˈfɪlmənt  / (US fulfillment)
noun [mass noun]
1 the achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted:
2 the meeting of a requirement, condition, or need:

As leaders, project managers are held to high standards – and some of the highest come from within ourselves. One of those high standards is how we work at keeping a balance between what the people on our teams need and what the project needs from our people.

Which do you think we have the strongest responsibility to help our teams develop – happiness or fulfillment?

If you find these types of discussions interesting, if you enjoy stretching your ideas around leadership, join our video academy and continue the conversation (and collect PDU’s)!


What is the Foundation for Your Leadership’s Strength?

What is the foundation for your leadership’s strength?

Recently there was a splash in the news about someone whose leadership is based in fear. People were informed that their jobs were on the line if they sided with facts and science over statements – true or not – based on the source of those statements.

If that person’s leadership is founded on fear of consequences if crossed there will continue to be strongly worded editorials and quietly expressed concern about the impact this will have.

So what is your leadership founded on?

KSP’s leadership driven project management is founded on the principle that leadership of any project team can be based on many different things. We suggest a basis of mutual trust and the establishment of safety will, in the end, be more productive – and therefore more profitable – than a basis of fear and negative consequences.

In her book ‘The Non-Obvious Guide to Emotional Intelligence’ Kerry Goyette suggests that negatively based motivational approaches might, in fact, torpedo the very progress you are trying to achieve!

Interested in learning more about a leadership driven model for high performing project teams?

Contact us at kziemski@ksppartnership.com and schedule a fast assessment of how your teams’ dynamics can affect your project’s ultimate performance.


A Key to Organizational Focus

A Key to Organizational Focus

A common cause for resource conflict lies in understanding the answer to a deceptively simple question: how much is enough?

A staff member may become an overachiever in an attempt to please his or her boss, or to satisfy their own pride by applying ‘more’ to a project than it deserves.

An electrical engineer may try to make an amplifier “just a bit more sensitive,” or an IT specialist may keep working to get a few more messages per second out of a processor. These are both examples of work that doesn’t deliver any appreciable benefit to the company.

A good project manager must know when to push for more performance and when to stop and move onto the next activity. This type of judgement call is how organizations’ financial and marketplace health either thrive or start a downward spiral.

Measurements and metrics offer everyone clear guidelines for balancing project objectives.

When you offer clear and specific metrics, you enhance the project designer’s ability to develop a project plan that supports the organization.

A favorite framework that accommodates the iterative approach of Agile or Scrum lays out three achievement levels for organizational or project objectives. These include:  minimum, target, and stretch metrics as defined below:

Minimum

Minimum acceptable metrics tell project designers the lowest acceptable value for an objective. They may drop to this measurement under pressure to achieve balance in other areas. By definition, if the project or product cannot meet this minimum criterion, the project should be rejected or abandoned.

Target

The target metric represents the strategic plan’s goals for the area. Once this target is achieved, project designers can focus on other areas. The target metric is the normal, steady-state metric portfolio and project designers should attempt to achieve it.

Stretch

Stretch metrics are objectives the organization strives to achieve to capture innovative ideas or unplanned opportunities. Frequently, these may represent upper limits that the project designer should not exceed to prevent overloading the resource pool. Achieving stretch metrics should not be the norm. If every project designer attempted to achieve stretch metrics, resource shortages would impair the chances of strategic success.

This model can be employed for all of the categories of objectives: schedule, cost, resource, technical, and quality.

Establishing a framework for balanced objectives allows you to distribute resources based on strategic direction, keeping the entire organization moving ahead.

A company has only so many resources. A good project manager ensures that resources saved in one area are more effectively used in another.


A Rose By Any Other Name…

A Rose By Any Other Name… – by Vicki White

Project Manager?  Team Leader? How do they relate?

While the Project Manager oversees and manages the big picture, the Team Leader deals with the nuts and bolts. By being more involved in the day to day work, the Team Leader also develops a more direct knowledge of the personalities of both the team members and the outside sources and conditions that may positively or negatively impact the end product.

Having had the experience of working in both positions in a large corporation, I can speak with some confidence as to the differences and similarities between the two.

As a team leader I was an integral, working member of the team. I was their first “line of defense” and the buffer between them and the project manager and the stakeholders. It was my job to keep them on track, to praise when needed and to escalate issues when it appeared deliverables may be impacted. I felt it was very important, particularly as a woman in a technical field at that time, to maintain a “just one of the guys” attitude with my team. This made it easier for them to be comfortable coming to me with issues. It was my responsibility to make sure the issues were escalated to the Project Manager and also to suggest possible ways in which they could be resolved and determine the cost, if any, associated with those resolutions.

I knew the strengths and weaknesses of each of my team members. Who would enjoy and excel at a knotty problem. Who could quickly crank out code. Who got bored once a solution was found and was then eager to go to the next challenge. Who hid their lack of confidence by using jargon in meetings with the stakeholders. With this knowledge I could juggle and monitor assignments to allow them to excel in their tasks, increasing the likelihood for overall project success.

By knowing and treating the team members as individuals, as people, the team developed a tightly knit bond which was evident in their production.

As a team leader I was still able to remain “in the trenches”, helping with debugging, overseeing testing, and picking up some coding when needed.

Once in the Project Manager role my concentration was on the bigger picture of the entire project’s progress. The Team Leader dealt with the “nuts and bolts” and had more one-on-one contact with each member of the team. While I relied on the Team Leader to identify issues and escalate them to me, it was ultimately my responsibility to make sure the team had what was needed to keep the project moving in a positive direction, whether it was answers from another area or additional personnel.

Sometimes a Project Manager may not have the hands on skill set that a Team Leader most likely has and as a result needs to rely on the Team Leader’s knowledge of the team’s makeup and the individuals’ strengths and weaknesses. Developing trust and confidence in the Team Leader is crucial to a successful project.

Returning to the earlier question of how do they relate? Using a very simplified football analogy, the Team Leader is the quarterback and the Project Manager is the head coach. Both must exhibit leadership to different degrees and in different areas to lead the team to success.


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