A delegation dilemma

John is the visionary and articulate chief executive at one of my clients. Unfortunately, he gives vague directions to his teams, believing that he is empowering them with freedom. When the results don’t satisfy him, he swoops in to micro-manage. His people feel whipsawed, while John is frustrated at their slow progress toward realizing the […]

Make your sausage behind closed doors

You may enjoy eating sausage, but probably less so after you watch the messy process of making it. Similarly, the week to week progress of even successful projects is filled with messy ups, downs, and course corrections. Most high-level stakeholders don’t need to see this normal noise. The project team should take care to not […]

Uninformed sponsors

“Uninformed sponsors – sponsors in name only – are of little help to project managers when obstacles arise.” So says Eric Verzuh, one of my favorite authors on projects. Verzuh continues by citing a study performed within a Fortune 500 corporation. “This study determined that having a known and active sponsor was the number one […]

How to create an environment of accountability

Often leaders ask me how to improve accountability within their project-based organization. However, that leader may actually be contributing to the accountability problem without realizing it, often because he communicates his expectations poorly or not at all. I believe that accountability starts with clear communication. You can’t hold someone accountable unless they first understand what […]

A controlling or micromanaging leadership style doesn’t work well

… especially on projects that must create and apply complex knowledge. Good leaders facilitate more than they bark orders. They share power and information. They build an environment where teamwork, trust and prudent risk-taking are the norm.   But when it is necessary, a good leader also drives accountability, makes hard and unpopular decisions, and pushes […]

People and relationships trump methodology and tools

I’ve seen high performance teams do amazing things. Don’t misunderstand me. Process and tools are important, too, when they enable good people to work together to use their skills “at the top of their certification.” People and process are inextricably intertwined and absolutely necessary in any project environment.

Plan (enough). Flex (a lot).

Projects are in the middle of constant change. Without some degree of planning, they will get swallowed up in the resulting tumult. However, being able to flex and adapt to changes is equally key. A successful project organization must be good at both planning and flexing, and it must be skilled at varying the balance […]

Just enough is often the best approach

Striving for perfection is often the enemy of being good enough. Especially when upgrading organizational capabilities, a theoretically elegant and correct solution often fails. The change required to implement it is too large and intimidating, so buy-in suffers and adoption falters. A less perfect but simpler solution actually works better.

Be a pragmatist rather than a purist

Be a pragmatist rather than a purist when it comes to management methodologies and frameworks. Such things are means to an end, not ends in themselves. I’ll happily mix and match bits and pieces from different approaches, such as PMBOK and agile, as long as they are effective for the situation I’m in. That’s why […]

Five core management beliefs

Recently I was flummoxed during a discussion of current trends in management. Several core beliefs guide my thinking about the best ways to manage projects.     They are so deeply held that I rarely stop to think about them explicitly.   In the discussion, I rashly took it for granted that other people held similar underlying beliefs, […]