Those of us who work in projects are oft-times called “project managers.” Some find it even more appropriate to be called “project leaders.” Grace Hopper once reminded us that we manage things, yet we lead people. For the purpose of this post, let’s assume both of these relate to people. We manage people, we lead people. The question is — do we?
A sure thing about working in projects is that positions we deal with are in fact functions, resources we obtain are in practice temporary and… volatile, and our rights and authority as project managers — informal. Thus, when thrown into a project environment, we put on our heavy armor of project experience, shield ourselves with models and fire an occasional escalation or two to make things happen. After all, that’s what projects are all about, right? To make things happen.
When dealing with internal projects, in mixed operational-project environments, I’ve noticed that to “make things happen” PMs often have two choices:
- To fight for a given resource or deliverable (winning a fight does not contribute towards the result).
- To pitch up and complete the job on their own (completing the job contributes towards the result).
While no. 2 is not a safe bet, and many a time not an option altogether, the most successful project managers I’d come across in such environments were those who were willing to let go and do the job, provided they had the know-how. In a way — “to lead by example” instead of making a fuss. Escalations, worse — conflicts, take time. As project managers we are judged by the end result. Someone’s unwillingness to participate is rarely an explanation.
In a similar manner, we ought to go through obstacles responsibly, avoiding dispersed responsibility, taking this responsibility on our own backs when in doubt (avoid doubts).