Why Business-focused Leadership is So Important in Project Management

December 3, 2014 Marcus Varner

Cinda Voegtli 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 Cinda Voegtli, CEO of Projectconnections.com.

The news was grim. The nine-month IT project, designed to deliver a wealth of new cost data to a group of critical business users, was six months into the schedule—and still gathering requirements. Although some technical work was underway, the team was floundering in how to settle the scope and proceed. Meantime, millions of dollars in additional profit per week from better product pricing decisions the new data would enable were being lost. And finishing the technical work on time was looking like an impossible dream.

But with less than three months to go, this project recovered. It was actually recovered on one specific day, when the sponsor, project manager (PM), and team gathered with two key business users and laid out the state of the project. The PM and sponsor called the meeting, because they had realized that the team meant well—they were trying to make sure they identified all the customer requirements so that they could deliver a full tool for the pricing analysts. But therein lay the problem: They were gathering all the requirements as abstract, equally weighted items to satisfy rather than focusing on the driving business goals and what mattered most for achieving them.

That day, the group explored what mattered most to the analysts' ability to make better pricing decisions and reap the maximum amount of extra profit. By the afternoon, the group had identified the five most important metrics the pricing analysts needed from the sales and customer support data. The technical team had started reworking the remaining schedule to deliver just those five metrics. In the end, the project was delivered within two weeks of its original deadline.

This project was not saved by heroics or more resources or tighter schedule management. What turned the project around was business-focused leadership by the sponsor and PM, as well as business-focused collaboration by the team to define and pursue what mattered most.

3 Key Lessons Learned

  1. The sponsor, PM, and team should gather with two key business users to lay out the state of the project.

  2. Determine what matters most to the projects and its users.

  3. Business-focused leadership by the sponsor the PM can save a project.

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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