Project Management Secret: Think Project Leadership, Not Project Management

September 8, 2014 Marcus Varner

Peter Taylor We recently reached out to 40 top Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) professionals and asked them the following question:

"Please share a remarkable leadership secret that had a major impact on an enterprise project you have managed. Please tell the story and the results that you achieved."

Today we highlight the response of Peter Taylor, owner and director at The Lazy Project Manager, LTD.

Leadership has been described as the art of leading others to deliberately create a result that wouldn't have happened otherwise. This is something that happens every day in project management, yet we call it just that—project management rather than project leadership.

A confusing situation, but the difference can be thought of in the following way: Leadership is setting a new direction or vision for a group to follow, while management is controlling resources in a group according to defined standards.

Using this definition, then, here is a great example of how such leadership brought about a significant change. We had a project in which, despite good plans and great people, we experienced issues resulting from the fact that neither we as the supplier organization nor the customer had addressed the issue of organizational change management (OCM) in any serious way. Yet, this was a big program of change running over a planned period of two and a half years and affecting hundreds of people.

Recognizing this gap and the risk to the overall project, the customer project manager and I agreed that we needed to do something, and that something was to lead the team in acquiring new skills while at the same time supporting the project. We did look at the use of external OCM resources, but the price tag was astonishingly high and hadn't been budgeted for, and so this idea was rejected.

Instead, we embarked on researching good OCM material, inviting external experts who were willing to speak to the team in return for a good meal and some expenses and running workshops with the team to explore the OCM challenge and develop a plan for change management.

The result, although perhaps not the perfect OCM engagement, was twofold: The team learned a new skill—or at least had their awareness raised over the need to take OCM seriously—and the business change impact was relatively smooth (certainly better than had we done nothing). Had we just "managed" the situation, I'm not sure what the outcome would have been. The fact that we "led" the situation was a positive thing.

To read more project management secrets, download the complete Lessons from 40 PPM Experts on Making the Transition from Project Management to Project Leadership eBook.

About the Author

Marcus Varner

Marcus is a content strategist and producer who loves helping brands craft content that improves customers' lives, builds brand credibility, and demands to be shared. For the last 10 years, Marcus has worked in every type of content—from writing to video production to design—and is currently a senior content marketing manager at Workfront, where he oversees all corporate- and awareness-level level content. When he's not producing content, he's consuming it, in the form of books, movies, and podcasts.

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