– This article was published on PM World Journal (June 2015)
The appetite for change that drives programmes and projects to transform organisations has become ever more urgent. After a number of years of restraint, increasingly we are finding the resources and enthusiasm to deliver more change than ever. At the same time, projects are more complex and cross-cutting and organisations are seeking to implement an agile approach to handle all of this complexity and deliver capability sooner. These factors are driving the emergence of a breed of super project manager or project leader who possesses a broader range of skills and competence than traditional project managers.
Traditionally, while projects may be complicated the structures were quite straightforward, with a controlled start, middle and end delivering a defined output through clear, robust and well-understood processes. While the expectation of innovation in projects has increased, a high percentage of projects were repetitions of previous project undertakings with just a few adaptations.
Modern project management is increasingly complex. Internally, senior project managers must have an understanding of the stability and sensitivity of the project objectives and the strategic importance of a project to the organisation – especially its financial significance. Depending on the scale of the project, the senior leader may have to take into account added hierarchies and layers of governance and reporting arrangements. They must have a clear appreciation of the needs of a wide range of stakeholders and the sociological, legal, environmental and political factors that are in play. Additional internal complexities include how the project interfaces with other change initiatives, the range of technical disciplines and approaches required and the geography and culture – including the language – of both the delivery teams and the business community affected by the project.
How is a successful project leader made?
Project managers are not all created equal and the journey to become a project manager is not a formally defined one. When asked, most will say that they drifted into project management in an unplanned way probably taking part in small project initiatives and working their way up to taking an increased level of responsibility. This is different in every case and what one organisation calls a project may not even register as a project with another.
There are generally three identifiable stages of developing a senior project manager, transforming a project manager with foundation-level project management skills and knowledge to someone capable of taking a leading role in change across the organization.