“I will definitely use it for the next project…” How often have you made yourself that promise? I will be the first to admit that I have it done so many times. I had every intention to handle a new project differently, but due to time constraints and that wonderful comfort zone, I never actually did.
Countless books have been written about what to do to successfully execute projects. They tell you what a stakeholder analysis is, what risk management entails, why plan-do-check-act is so important and what is expected of you as a team leader. However, how to put everything into practice, even under less-than-ideal circumstances, how to integrate all this into your own work process and how to make sure that you actually do it this time; all of that is still a “do it yourself” matter for most people.
Searching for the essence
To answer these questions, I went searching for the essence of project management. In a world where projects and cooperative alliances are becoming ever more complex and there’s a strong demand for comprehensive methods, I believe we could all do with a bit of simplicity. Back to the core, in other words, which allows you to combine useful elements from the many available methods and leadership techniques and understand how to integrate these into your own style. After all, it isn’t the methods that make a difference, but how you use them!
When you understand the essence, you can even be Agile in a traditional environment, have teams take responsibility in a top-down organisation and turn the process of coordinating with the client from a contractual negotiation into a coproduction.
My search ultimately resulted in the writing of the book The Complete Project Manager. This is a book about the how of project management and about how you, the project manager, can stay in control even during difficult situations by adopting a proactive attitude. Above all, this book is intended to make project management – which is often tainted by negative connotations – fun (again) for project managers, team members and the environment!
The book The Complete Project Manager was written for project managers. These days, almost everyone is a project manager to some degree. More and more organisations adopt a project-based approach and today’s knowledge workers prefer to work autonomously or as part of a self-organising team. It is therefore essential to take control of your work process and your life: manage yourself, manage your team, manage your environment. If you recognise yourself in this, a number of themes covered in the book will certainly be of interest to you:
1. What are the basic techniques of a project manager that can be used in both Agile and traditional environments?
2. How can you integrate the many available project management methods into your own work process?
3. How can you use smart leadership and certain forms of behaviour to massively increase your effectiveness and efficiency by always taking control (the factor 10)?
4. How can you combine traditional (waterfall-oriented) product development with Agile (software) development?
5. How can you make uncertainties and changes work for you, rather than against you?
6. How can you structure a complex project in such a way that it becomes an insightful and delegable series of interim results?
7. How can you measure the true project status from the very beginning of the project using the critical parameters?
8. How can you create the frameworks within which teams of knowledge workers can operate in a self-organising manner?
9. How can you safeguard progress, learning ability, communication and goal orientation in any situation with the help of a heartbeat?
10. How can you turn the collaboration with your stakeholders into a coproduction, regardless of the circumstances?
11. Above all, how can you stay true to yourself throughout all this?
The word complete in The Complete Project Manager is not meant to suggest that the book is all-encompassing. Instead, it is meant to touch and inspire readers. You can achieve more by understanding your environment, familiarizing yourself without prejudice with the many project management tools and integrating these into your personal style.
The 10% confrontation rule
As a preview of the book, I want to end this blog by discussing the 10% confrontation rule. This is a tool that I use to avoid submarine behaviour. You exhibit submarine behaviour when you “dive under” at the start of an activity, work hard and don’t “surface” again until you are finished with your task. Focus is a good thing, but it can also make you lose sight of the bigger picture. Submarine behaviour, therefore, means there is no visibility or coordination with stakeholders during an activity.
With the 10% confrontation rule, I avoid submarine behaviour by making a commitment at the start of an activity to “surface” after roughly 10% of the lead time to present an interim result to the stakeholders. It’s important to understand that this moment is not free of obligation. Rather than waiting to see if you have anything to present, you agree beforehand that you will have something to show. That can be exciting: at the start of a project, you often have no idea of what you will communicate. Don’t worry, you will. Making this commitment forces you to immediately create an overview of the task at hand and identify the key (proactive) aspects.
The 10% confrontation rule will make you an influencer
The great thing about the 10% confrontation moment is not only that it helps you avoid procrastination, but also that the client and your environment are surprised by the early initial result, which makes them more inclined to start thinking along with you. You avoid procrastination and create a sense of WE instead of YOU-THEM (which usually occurs when the deadline approaches and the pressure mounts). Best of all, the interim result you show at the 10% moment doesn’t have to be perfect. On the contrary, nobody will expect an end result at that stage! By showing daring and using the early confrontation method, you can create an environment of open collaboration in which it is okay to be creative and make mistakes. That’s how great project management can be. Managing projects is fun!
Sr. Director Projectmanagement & Technology
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