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5 Leadership Essentials for a Successful Project


Written by Hanna Kounov.

During my many years of project management I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly of projects. It is usual practice to have the scope, timeline and the budget of a project agreed upon by all parties so it is interesting to me that there is still an opportunity for failure. One would think that with all that in place and checks and balances it couldn’t go wrong. So why does it occasionally? Because it is not about the scope, the budget or the timeline… it is about change and therefore about people and their acceptance of the change.

I concede that no-one starts out to have a project fail but careful considerations should to be taken if you want it to succeed. In today’s business environment a failed project is no longer an option. That being said the scope of today’s projects – even small ones – are fundamentally different from just five years ago. New technologies and the ability of being mobile, coupled with smarter and more effective tools and customizations mean that projects are far-reaching and more complicated. For that very reason one has to ensure that these five essentials are in place. There are so many different reasons for project success or failure, but in my experience, for a project to be successful the following elements have to be present:

1. Committed Engagement
In order for any project to be successful there has to be commitment to the project. Management plays a role in ensuring that not only the project team is supported but everyone in the company understands that the change is required and necessary for future growth. The most successful project are the ones where the customer is engaged and takes responsibility for the system and the proposed changes. This requires motivating team members to test the new process and be involved at every level and task during the implementation.

2. Accepting Change
Perhaps the most damaging statement for any project is “We have always done it this way.” Receiving push-back of this nature can stop a project in its tracks or force it off the rails. The outcome is that you do not achieve the results you were expecting. These seven words will start a landslide of “fixes” or re-engineering that will reduce the effectiveness of the project as the software is forced to adhere to an often antiquated business process. There will be no gain in the long run and before long all the previous flaws will become apparent once again as people step outside the software to fill the gaps that were supposed to be addressed during the project.

3. Team Work
What is teamwork but relationships in motion? Foster respect between team members. It is not about being right, it is about getting the best outcome possible. Strong mentorship and support is crucial. Conflicts must be addressed immediately. There can never be room for passive or aggressive behavior and all viewpoints have to be seen as important and weighed to see if it makes sense. Have regular meetings and encourage discussion among team members. Remember e-mail is a great but voice and/or video communication really improves the overall health of the project.

4. Strong Leadership
Someone has to make the tough decisions! Leadership is essential as the proposed project is sure to change the structure and the nature of how business is conducted. Without leadership the project will flounder like a ship without a rudder. A successful leader is one who is optimistic with the ability to recognize what is and not avoid the harder conversations. A person who realizes that life happens and that you have to dance in the storm to keep some projects on course.

5. Care for the Team
It is my opinion that many times there is a lack of care for the project team within an organization. In most cases the individuals involved in a project still have to manage their day to day jobs. Splitting their energies in this way can cause huge stress for some individuals. As the live date approaches these team members need support. My recommendation is that some of their responsibilities are taken on by other staff members however that is not always an option in smaller companies. Therefore it is important for the project team to know that their efforts are appreciated through recognition in some form.

It doesn’t matter how simple or complicated the change is, it is still a change and with these five management essentials the chances are in your favour for a successful project.

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by | March 7, 2016 · 7:03 pm