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Essence of successful Project Management is time travel

Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 52) – All IMHO: 

How do you know the project manager is right for your project? It is hard to know in the present because project management and for that matter, commissioning management are outcome based. IMHO the only why to know is when you look back and see that………

  • The project was on time, budget and quality
  • There where low levels of disagreement and conflict which where mediated professionally
  • Project risks where identified, managed and mitigated
  • KPI’s quantitatively support the conclusion of a successful project outcome

IMHO project management excellence requires a future oriented perspective rather than a reactive, living in the present oriented perspective. In my experience people fall into three personality types:

  1. Past oriented with 2 sub-groups

    • Past positive i.e. reference to good projects and experiences 
    • Past negative i.e references to past failures and regrets
  2. Present oriented with 2 sub-groups

    • Hedonistic i.e. lives in the moment for maximum enjoyment
    • Fated i.e. it does not pay to plan
  3. Future oriented

    • Work rather than play, delayed gratification, trust in abilities and future. Trust being the most important IMHO.

We have all experienced project managers who are in “survival mode”. In over their heads, providing poor leadership and decision making but are awesome at meeting minutes and e-mail forwarding. When pushed or challenged they resort to hiding or bullying, blame and management by shouting (MBS). MBS with a strong blame culture seems to be quite the phenomenon in the testosterone filled construction world. Most project managers that exhibit these traits are typically past or sometimes present oriented people. 

For me, great project managers are always future oriented. They have to be bold and reach forwards in time to identify and manage project risks. To quote “Mr Rumsfeld”, find the unknown, unknowns. They need to trust in their and the projects teams ability to identify, own, resolve and manage errors & omissions plus risks. They  provide the leadership and confidence to the project team to embrace problems rather than start the blame game.

A great project manager generates a culture of accountability and ownership. A project manger that creates an environment of miss-trust and conflict is, to quote “Donald Trump” a loser! For the client, an environment of miss-trust and conflict is a sure way to go over budget and be left with litigation issues. 

Should a project manager be a sector Subject Matter Expert (SME)? I have some mixed feelings on this. The PMP qualification is a project management process certification and its genius is that it is a generic project management process that does not, in theory, require subject matter expertise. However for the built environment and property development sectors I believe that being a SME is important, the RICS take this view and on balance, I support it.

Buildings are complex and the design and construction process is a whirlwind of paperwork, under-resourcing, skills deficiencies and chaos. Being a SME in any building design or construction related discipline is a distinct advantage as a project manager, particularly with regards to empathy for teams members challenges. MBS and blame cultures always results in people with experience leaving projects to the detriment of the client. People leave people not projects or firms. 

So what traits should we try and identify when interviewing a prospective project manager?

  • Future oriented worldview (can be identiifed in the unfiltered words they use and outcome based narratives) 
  • Trust in team work
  • Humility i.e. acknowledgement that they do not know what they do not know
  • Confidence despite their humility
  • KPI’s from past projects that support excellence 

However IMHO, the number one trait for predicting success is a future orientated perspective

BTW: A bonus for anyone that can identify the TV show this image is from…..

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