Everyone likes to feel like they are important; Family, Friends, Co-Workers, but especially our Customers! How we communicate their importance, what is said and how it is finally interpreted, can be more difficult than it seems.
You’ll often hear people extolling the virtues of leadership, and at other times the virtue or failures of management. The question is what is the difference and how does that play out within the context of Project Management. In a nutshell (yes, I am simplifying it for this discussion) the difference between leadership and management can be thought of in this way:
Management is about dealing with the complexities, logistics and issues of execution. In short, it brings order, consistency and predictability to the notion of things like Project Deliverables, meeting Quality Assurance goals, and the overall delivery of product, projects or programs, regardless of what those things might be. Leadership on the other hand is about vision, inspiration and dealing with change.
Setting the “Fixed Bid” model of funding projects completely aside for a moment, let’s talk about the “Time and Materials” model of project funding in relation to project management…
This would seem to be a given, but take a minute and give it a little deeper consideration to how careful consideration and development of your relationships can make a meaningful difference in your project management style and methodology. Everyone has the gravy projects where you’re working with established clients, you have competent partners to work with, tasks that are familiar and easy to accomplish. The project just goes like clock work.
Consider for a moment the trouble projects, difficult or challenging clients, or alpha projects where you are breaking new ground and there is significant risk involved. As the Project Manager, the person with ultimate accountability for pulling the whole thing off, the way that you choose (and with whom you choose) to develop relationships could likely determine your ultimate success or failure.
As PM’s we know that building consensus and getting people to ‘buy-in’ is critical. In some situations, you may be dealing with large groups of people, or many departments that all need to embrace your plans and participate in the execution of your plan for the whole thing to succeed. Understanding the dynamics of those groups, being able to determine who the leaders and influencers are is key to motivating the masses. Understanding who the real functionals (e.g. administrative assistants, key players in procurement, etc…) are will also be vital. These people are not always in the list of who you consider to be key stakeholders. One you’ve developed an understanding of who these people are, and how they can help you, developing relationships should be a given. It should always be ‘real’ though. People often ‘get it’ when you’re not sincere, or have ulterior motives.
It takes only a small amount of time to show genuine consideration and interest for people at an individual level. That investment will not only yield a more pleasant work environment and experience, but it could make the difference at critical points in the project when you really need something or need to get a ‘community of interest’ on board with an idea or a plan. It’s an investment that will often yield substantial and meaningful benefits.