Another writing project still in the conception phase is “PRINCESS.” This book will explore the human side of project management and will be an unofficial Kiwi companion for the somewhat brutal and overwhelming UK process-heavy PRINCE2 methodology currently favoured by our central government. PRINCESS will explore the softer yet vital topics of leadership, communication, team-building, negotiation, motivation, delegation, feedback (giving and getting) and performance management, personal productivity and time management, managing meetings, presentation skills, networking, interviewing, coaching, mentoring, dealing with stress (yours and other’s), conflict management and so on, all of which PRINCE2 publications neglect. I think we know that once the technical processes of PRINCE2 have been mastered, it’s always the people what makes the difference.
Of these many capabilities, I’m sure we would list “leadership” first, which in the project situation means removing obstacles to the team’s excellent performance. This is often no easy task when our project team composition is constantly changing, team members are also working for their business-as-usual managers, and sometimes members’ hidden agendas frustrate our teamwork, when a project team is often described as a group of people with complementary skills, who collaborate to achieve the common project goal. Team-building is therefore essential. This doesn’t mean death-defying SAS field exercises, but rather occasions when the team can get together and get to know each other and preferably do this away from the more stressful work environment – perhaps a BBQ. But remember to allow for these team-building activities in the project schedule and budget.
Yet, sometimes us project managers are the biggest obstacle to our project team’s effectiveness. We must therefore invite candid and frequent feedback from our team about our own performance, recognising that leadership is essentially in the eyes of our followers. In terms of performance management we might therefore favour “day-by-day, one-on-one, two-way ” friendly and informal on-the-job talks, such that emerging risks and issues are dealt with early. Invariably, our final performance reports for our team members are then positive and pertinent. In fact, the mantra for all project issues, human and otherwise, is “to solve them easily, detect them early.”
And next to leadership comes proficiency in communicating, or perhaps this is the top credential for good leadership. My military background didn’t necessarily prepare me well for listening, where yelling louder was not an uncommon solution to problems of comprehension, but I now appreciate that listening is the key to effective communications. It can be a challenge to concentrate, put aside preconceived ideas, ask open questions, and avoid interrupting and jumping to conclusions eh?
Now that I think about it, given the importance of the people factor, I prefer the term “project leader” to “project manager.” Anyway, I’m looking forward to giving you my personal perspectives on these so-called soft skills that are largely ignored in those PRINCE2 process-dominated publications. Ever tried to read one? Feel free to disagree with my assertions of course.