Some weeks ago we published a post on who our Project Manager should be, listing the management and personal qualities that he should have, according to the Project Management Institute (PMI). Among those qualities are those of the person who participates in the strategic planning for the business.
But this was not always so. In the beginnings of Project Management in the 1980s, project management was seen by the business sector as a technical and secondary discipline limited to the implementation of a previously defined company strategy. Consequently, the Project Manager was simply the person chosen to coordinate the necessary actions in order to bring about said implementation in the best way possible (who has to do what and when).
Today the Project Manager’s role has evolved from mere implementer to a more active position in which he takes part in the company’s strategic planning, which is why it is included among his current required qualities.
1. Anticipation: It is a common error for business leaders to not have peripheral vision, with their sights limited to what is in front of them. This makes them vulnerable. To be able to anticipate, a Project Manager must:
- Seek out the information that could change the game in the periphery of our industry.
- Look beyond the current limits of our business.
- Build wide external networks to better explore the horizons.
2. Think critically: If we swallow each new fashion imposed on us and faithfully follow trends like sheep, our company will lose any competitive advantage. Critical thinkers question absolutely everything. To be critical, a Project Manager must:
- Reformulate each problem to get to the bottom of its causes.
- Challenge popular wisdom and established beliefs (including your own).
- Uncover the hypocrisy, manipulation and prejudices or biases in both your own decisions and in those of the stakeholders.
3. Interpret: Ambiguity is upsetting. Confronted by it, the temptation is to reach a quick (and potentially mistaken) decision. A good strategic leader remains firm, synthesizing the information from diverse sources before arriving at his own point of view. To be good at interpreting, the Project Manager must:
- Search for patterns in a variety of data sources.
- Motivate the team to do the same.
- Question prevailing suppositions and at the same time test various hypotheses.
4. Decide: Many leaders are victims of paralysis. To avoid that, they must develop processes and make sure they are completed. Projects move ahead to the extent that decisions are made. To do that well, the Project Manager must:
- Frame decisions to get at the heart of the matter.
- Balance speed, rigor, quality and agility.
- Take a position, even amid incomplete information and diverse points of view.
5. Motivate: Achieving total consensus is exceptionally rare, but when points of view diverge, a strategic leader must promote open dialogue, confidence and participation among stakeholders. To achieve that, a Project Manager must:
- Understand the programs of the other stakeholders.
- To bring difficult subjects out in the open, however unpleasant they may be.
- Evaluate risk tolerance and push ahead to achieve the necessary support.
6. Learn. As companies grow, honest feedback is more and more difficult to find. Success and failure are valuable sources of organizational learning.
These six leadership habits complement what was said above about the necessary qualities of a good Project Manager. Obviously we cannot be experts in everything, but you can work in many areas to become better professionals, especially when we are talking about habits rather than innate qualities.