Through my work leading large transformation projects for clients, and coaching and training project leaders and teams, I know how challenging it is to maintain momentum through the rapid pace of change and disruption that organizations face on a daily basis. Frequent disruptive events can set progress back by weeks or even months. Often teams spend so much of their time reacting and firefighting that they are unable to devote any time to learn new tools or methods to change how they are operating. It becomes a vicious cycle that is close to impossible to break out of, and results in team members who are stressed, overworked and overwhelmed.
Organizations achieve their mission through projects — and the work that project teams accomplish are pivotal to the organization’s success.
The skills required to lead teams through constant change, uncertainty and upheaval differ from traditional project management “hard” skills. It requires what I call “power skills” – others call these “soft” skills, however I don’t see anything soft about the skills required to:
✅ Lead & guide a team
✅ Establish strong relationships
✅ Know what questions to ask
✅ Know when to stop asking questions
✅ Be creative and innovative in problem-solving
✅ Motivate team through adverse situations
✅ Negotiate and diffuse conflict
✅ Promote responsibility & accountability
Project management has been a process driven world for decades. However, the focus on structured processes hasn’t dramatically improved project outcomes. Failure rates for projects are still way too high. The PMI “Pulse of the Profession” from 2021 cites that over 35% of projects failed with the budget lost, and only 73% of projects met their goals, with only 62% within budget, and 55% on time (so 73% ultimately met their goals by going over budget and extending the original schedule!).
In my training programs, I focus on people over process (thanks to the agile manifesto), placing attention on developing “power skills” through a framework I developed called “The 6 Pillars Project Leadership Framework”. The core concept is that we can boost outcomes and results for our organizations through engaging our teams, peers and executives, and leading them through the project journey (as opposed to a project feeling like it is being done to them). It requires discipline and control of all the details of course, however the focus is on providing what the team and stakeholders need, when they need it, so that they can focus on what they need to do to deliver innovative and high quality solutions.
I recently attended a presentation by Alistair Cockburn on the “Heart of Agile”. He was one of the leading co-founders of the Agile Manifesto some years ago. As a developer and program manager for application development teams, these principles became our reference point for all of the work that we did — and how we operated as a team to accomplish results despite the constraints we were working under.
Revisiting the agile manifesto led me to think about the project leader’s manifesto. The work that a project leader does isn’t easy – they often are working under duress, and it can sometimes feel like pushing a boulder up a mountain. However, I firmly believe that to be effective, project managers have to “lead” rather than “manage” — which is why I call the role “project leader” rather than “project manager”.
To cut a long story short, I created what I call “The Project Leader Manifesto”. I unveiled this today on a webinar and am eager to publish the manifesto here and start to get feedback from project leaders and teams on what resonates and what could be improved.
Check out the webinar replay and let me know what resonates with you. Try the Project Leader daily planner and let me know what you become aware of and how it changes your engagement and leadership approach. Let’s refine the manifesto together. You can find the assessment tools on our free leadership community at www.solasleadership.com.
I hope these insights energized and inspired you. If you’d like to chat about how to elevate your team and accelerate your results, reach out. You can book a time to talk with me here.