Leading projects instead of managing them: leading teams properly


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A look at the practice shows that the need for “project managers” is increasing: almost all innovation or reorganization processes critical to success in Company are now handled in project form. A specialist department alone is less and less confident of these central tasks.

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Olaf Hinz Style: "Color tone - warm"Olaf Hinz was the office manager of Peer Steinbrück, and today he is a leader in the field of challenging waters.

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Increase the quality of project management

The second look into the practice shows that the quality of the project management must be increased, because reputable sources estimate the value creation losses by unprofessional project management in German Company on three-digit billions!

The reason for this also lies in the two typical entries into a project management career. Either you are interested in a topic, show a high level of commitment and commitment, know your way around office software and have “worked in projects” - you are a project manager! Or you are already a manager and lead a team, department or area in which “something new” is to happen - who else than this manager can become the project manager ?!

The project management methodology

Then the project management methodology begins: activities and work steps are entered into the software, milestones are determined and appointments are assigned. The result is an overall schedule, which allows the walls of the office to be papered effortlessly.

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Once these plans hang, they are also true. There is pure planning: a mechanistic understanding of planning in which people, their interests and the unexpected hardly have space. The fact that projects are run by people in organizations, that is, behavior, attitudes and group dynamics, also belongs to the fulfillment of the project requirements is unfortunately almost blinded.

Successfully navigate the project ship through the sea

But it is a point of view: project management standards and their good knowledge is also certified, are not enough to control the project ship successfully through the sea.

To carry out projects is a challenging task for which it needs specific competences that go far beyond the knowledge that the commercial project management certifications certify.

What needs to be a project leader?

So if the “slipping” into a project career is the rule and the belief in methods is so high, then I think it's good to have clarity about working as a manager in the project before embarking on the great ocean of project work.

After all, concepts that are successful and proven in the line can not simply be transferred to leadership in the project, because project management differs in essential points from management tasks in the hierarchy. The specific framework conditions in projects are different.

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Colorful mixture of different interests

Project captains are traveling with a motley team. Differences already existing in the company between the organizational units meet even more directly in the project.

Conflicts of interest and power create a higher conflict potential than in the parallel line organization.

  • Part-time employment in the project: Team members may work in parallel in other projects and / or in the specialist department. This can lead to a fight for resources, because the “smart minds” are not only needed in the project, but also in day-to-day business. This can go so far that the project captain is only provided with "dispensable" line staff who may not have the necessary skills. The best horse from the stable comes into the project, which can be synonymous with the horse that makes the most crap.
  • Content and time limit: The project team starts at a certain time and works on a specific task for a limited period of time. The project content, costs and deadlines require a special result orientation under time pressure. The project manager is often only active for this one project in the management position and otherwise as a project employee or in his department.
  • Lead up and down: The project captain also controls the committees of the project, ie the client. He has to lead upwards and make sure to get the necessary decisions from the shipowner. This requires political sensitivity, intensive work in advance (stakeholder management) and effective micro-politics. On the other hand, the leader in the project acts down; she has to direct the team and bring the project to a successful conclusion. This is a balancing act between sometimes conflicting interests.
  • Lateral guidance: Project captains are usually not equipped with all disciplinary management tools like the managers in the hierarchy. So-called autonomous projects with disciplinary leadership by the project manager are rather rare. The standard is that disciplinary leadership remains with the line manager. In these projects, the project managers lead “laterally”, that is, both as a colleague and in terms of time and content, to the project task. This means that there is only a limited repertoire available to them.

What makes good leadership?

In the next steps, I will introduce essential points for this:

  • What makes leadership special in the project
  • Why successful project management needs more than just the mastery of methodology
  • What makes successful project captains

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  1. Paul

    Project management is an important aspect of the daily work, hence a good contribution.

  2. Alfred

    Thank you for your great contribution! Project management is such an important topic!

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