When Project Managers plan implementations, they often do not adequately anticipate failure despite the risks associated with any project. Rather, they plan for the best case scenarios driven by the budget, deliverables, sponsor expectations and deadlines. And despite their best efforts at project management, failure rates remain high.
Project implementations can fail for a number of reasons — ranging from unrealistic expectations, poor methodology, poor requirements, inadequate resources, poor project management, untrained teams, unrealistic budgets, to poor communication and more. With such a long list of factors that can lead to failure, the chances of project implementation success seems low. Those chances can be improved by adopting these 5 best practices. These will help establish a clear understanding of expectations among all the stakeholders—be they business, sponsor, project team, to vendor partners and end users.
The entrepreneur Project Manager
Every project manager, during their career, short or long has worked with or heard of some PM who was the absolute best. The one on whose team everyone wanted to be and the one who always managed to deliver the desired results.
Now, every Project Manager knows that being able to scope, budget & schedule projects and being able to guide them through its lifecycle are the average days work. The bare minimum any PM should be capable of.
So, what are the qualities of a Super PM? What does it take to move beyond the ordinary and into the extraordinary?
I believe it is a Mindset. More specifically, the entrepreneurial mindset.
The best PMs have learnt through their experiences that to not just succeed but to exceed, one needs to think beyond just the basics of project management. It is not just enough to know about scheduling, budgeting, subject matter, etc. & somehow push the project through its phases towards its final milestone. These extraordinary PMs have realized that to be really successful, one has to be able to look beyond the mundane & rise beyond the ordinary.
They have adopted the entrepreneurial mindset.
The Entrepreneurial Mindset
A couple of definitions to consider:
a. Entrepreneur is a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk
b. Mindset - a mental attitude or inclination
According to Schumpeter, “the capabilities of innovating, introducing new technologies, increasing efficiency and productivity, or generating new products or services, are characteristic qualities of entrepreneurs”, while Robert B. Reich considers “ leadership, management ability, and team-building to be essential qualities of an entrepreneur”.
In a recent article on entrepreneurship, Dan Schawbel states that “A major shift is taking place, replacing the typical definition of an entrepreneur — “someone who starts a company” — with a newer definition, one based on the innate mindset of a person who sees opportunities and pursues them.”
And, as per the Financial Times, “The entrepreneurial mindset as refers to a specific state of mind which orientates human conduct towards entrepreneurial activities and outcomes. Individuals with entrepreneurial mindsets are often drawn to opportunities, innovation and new value creation.
Characteristics include the ability to take calculated risks and accept the realities of change and uncertainty.”
So, an entrepreneur is a take charge, self directed person who rounds up important resources & services to deliver a product or service to consumers that is of value. Now, while this description can describe any manager, there is one very critical difference between an entrepreneur & a manager. While most managers are very capable & dedicated to their work, only an entrepreneur manager, will consciously & subconsciously, act as if they have personal equity in the initiatives success or failure. It is not “just a job” for them. Entrepreneurs know that they cannot fail and that their failure will lead to the failure of the entire business or initiative.
Similarly, for each & every project, an entrepreneur PM will take extra initiative and considerable to ensure its success. This mindset of “personal ownership” is what sets this type of a PM apart from others. This mindset also drives the PMs efforts towards setting higher standards for performance & achievement. Entrepreneur PMs realize the importance & centrality of their team’s effort & work to deliver great results. They know that while they themselves cannot perform all the tasks & roles on a project, they are ultimately responsible for its success or failure and the impact on its stakeholders.
No project on its own is perfect or the best. There are always risks associated with it. And it is not difficult to assign blame for failure. If one looks for, they can find innumerable reasons such as blame the SMEs, sponsor, budget, the team, etc. to blame for failure.
For the entrepreneur PM though, success is the only way to go forward. They are personally invested in its success. Hence, they are never reactive & don’t accept excuses. They proactively approach each and every project and will demolish every barrier erected in their path. They will do whatever effort is required to find the solutions which will guide the team & project towards success. Their sense of project ownership is always high; innovation is a way of life; their appetite for risk is high and they are always striving for the betterment of the project.
A project is always undertaken to create something new or unique, even if it is a small update. The new product or service cannot be initiated by machines. Not as of now. Hence human resources are the most critical for a project for its success. Entrepreneur PMs know that.
Some common characteristics of entrepreneur PMs:
· Get’s the “big picture”
· Leader & motivator
· Team builder
· Patient (not easily rattled)
· Great listener & communicator
· Strategic & Organized
· Technically sound
· Effective task delegator
Entrepreneur PMs are often not the most technically qualified. In fact, my observation is that often, the most technically qualified & experienced people don’t make the best project managers. Technical competence is important to some extent for project management but not critical. Skills such as being proactive, understanding people and their goals, taking ownership, being able to “get the big picture”, etc. are more crucial for a project’s success.
Entrepreneur PMs are driven professionals who strive to excel and the thought of being able to interact with great minds daily, guiding them and extracting ideas excites them. An entrepreneur PMs mindset is analogous to that of a CEO in that they are always striving on delivering high value to all their stakeholders.
These days project budgets don’t stretch to nice things like bonuses for all team members for when the project completes on time. If the team members don’t work for you then you probably can’t give them a pay rise either. You might not even get enough in the budget left over for a party at the end of the project. Even if you do, you might be hampered by local tax laws that specify how much you can give gifts in lieu of financial amounts, and you could make it harder for people to complete their tax returns by giving any sort of bonus at all.
Common practice on projects is to take people out for a meal or even to a bar for drinks, but if your budget is tight you might have to resort to getting people to pay for themselves, or for you to pay for the first round of drinks, for example. There are other ways to motivate your team without it looking like you are being too stingy.
So, if you can’t motivate people to do a good job with financial incentives, what can you do to ensure they perform well (or to reward people who did perform well)? Here are some ideas.
Grant time off
You might have to check with their line manager, but granting someone time off in lieu of extra hours worked can be a great way to reward project team members who have put in extra hours during a push on a project, or a go live weekend. It’s also worth checking with HR about the policy for this, as you could be setting a precedent, but it is definitely worth considering.
Being ‘allowed’ to go on a training course might not seem like much of a reward. After all, surely this is part of your normal contract of employment with your boss – they should be providing training anyway. But in times like these where extra cash for training is hard to come by, operations managers might not have a training budget. You, on the other hand, could offer developmental activities as part of the project, and then encourage people to try out their new skills. There’s even a process for this in thePMBOK® Guide – Develop Project Team.
Did you know that project management has been around for more than 2500 years? If project management is defined as the act of assembling people to systematically achieve a shared goal, then it has existed since ancient history.
Whether it was the Egyptians erecting the Great Pyramid of Giza, an Indian Maharaja directing his skilled artisans while building the Taj Mahal or a Chinese King commanding the manual labor of millions to build the Great Wall of China, they were all endeavors of project Management.
Even though times, methodologies & technologies have changed, Project Management has kept its core goal intact: To deliver successful projects in a clear and effective way.
Below is a wonderful infographic depicting the history of project management as we know it as of now.