Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What does project management mean to me?

What does project management mean to me?

Over the years I have thought more and more about this question.  I don’t know if I have a definitive answer yet but I am moving closer to it with each week’s blog.

Many years ago, when I was first made a project manager, I had absolutely no idea how to go about it.  The fact that I had previously worked for some poor project managers had taught me a few things I should not do, such as alienating the team members and trying to do everything myself.  There wasn’t much around by way of training courses back then and we were expected to learn as we went along.  So I did my best and naturally made quite a few mistakes, but on the whole more things worked out right than wrong.  Maybe I was just lucky. 

With advancing years and experience I have realized that good project managers have a basic understanding of how things work. When I say things, I mean everything, people and processes included. But while much has been written on the ‘what’ of project management, from the lofty heights of PRINCE2 and the PM-BOK to my own humble efforts in “Effective Project Management in easy steps” and “Agile Project Management in easy steps”, little has been written on the how of project management. For this reason I first started this blog about five years ago to try and record how things happened on my and other people’s projects and in life generally. 

Because of an interest in Taoist philosophy, I decided to look at how a wise project manager goes about ensuring the success of a project.  From this I soon found that what mattered to me was the soft (or people) skills of project management together with an understanding of how things happen.  From my own experience of running training courses I realized that the way cannot be taught, it can only be understood or known.  So the blog and the book I published based on it “The Way of the Project Manager” is based on my observations of how things have happened in real projects and in life, set against the background of the thoughts and advice of Lao Tzu. 

So to return to the question of what project management mean to me, it means wise project management.  The wise project manager starts with no expectations and observes how things unfold.  He concentrates on the deliverables and not the tasks of producing them.  He is aware of processes but not driven by them.  He concentrates on the team having what they need to produce their deliverables and protects them from outside interference.  He is a facilitator and does not interfere because he trusts the team. 

The wise project manager does not try and take credit, he gives credit to the team.  He put the good of the team ahead of his own good.  Like water flowing, he takes the path of least resistance.  He stays aware of what is happening on the project by being silent and listening.  He stays calm by being centered and grounded. 

The wise project manager ensures the success of his projects by listening to all the project stakeholders.  He concentrates on the here and now, not what has happened in the past, or what might happen in the future.  He is considerate, courteous and knows how to yield gracefully and is therefore enlightened.  If he has problems he tries softer not harder. 

The wise project manager appears to do little, yet achieves much.  He always stays flexible.  He shares his knowledge and understanding with the team, thus making the team stronger.  He is simple, humble and does not pretend to know things he doesn’t.   He has no hidden motives and always tries to keep things simple. 

Finally the wise project manager does not try to claim success, he encourages others to be successful and takes pleasure in their success.  He expects the best of people and is usually rewarded for it.  Finally in my own words, but expressed in the style of Lao Tzu:

The Way is not complex. 
Follow the simplest path for it is The Way. 
Be open with your team and they will be open with you. 
Be one with the universe and the universe will be one with you. 
The wise project manager is humble, he knows the team does the work. 
He respects and acknowledges the team and they in turn respect and acknowledge him. 
The poor project manager seeks fame, the wise project manager seeks inner peace. 
With fame come problems, with inner peace comes understanding. 
The poor project manager worries about what to do next. 
The wise project manager relishes not doing, when nothing needs to be done. 
Do little, for this is the way of the project manager. 

John Carroll
Mallorca, Spain

P.S. This post is published as part of a first ever project management
related global blogging initiative to publish a post on a common theme at
exactly the same time. Seventy four (74!) bloggers from Australia, Canada,
Colombia, Denmark, France, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal,
Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UK and the USA have committed to make a
blogging contribution and the fruit of their labour is now (literally NOW)
available all over the web. The complete list of all participating blogs is
found here <
http://list.ly/list/7Or-pmflashblog-contributors?>  so please go
and check them out!

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