Lead by example
For the PMI Global Congress 2005–EMEA keynote speaker, real project management is about being a leader.
by Meghan Haynes
David Taylor, 2005 EMEA Congress keynote speaker
In his 25-year career working in IT, David Taylor, the keynote speaker for PMI Global Congress 2005— EMEA, read numerous business books that he felt made the concepts of success and leadership more complicated than need be. In 2003, he wrote the first edition of The Naked Leader, a book based on the premise that successful companies and effective leaders emphasize people before process; promote choice, not change; and put meaning before money.
“I‘m not making any claims to having unique ideas: All I‘ve done is gone out and looked at the very best of the very best in leadership and brought it together to, hopefully, remove some of the hype, challenge and mystery,” Mr. Taylor says. PM Network spoke with him about how project managers become leaders.
PM Network: Why a “naked” leader?
When I wrote the book, I used naked to indicate stripping away some of the jargon of the field. But it has morphed since then.
On the day we are born, we only have two fears: The fear of falling over and the fear of loud noises. Every other fear we have made up and thus, can get over. And from the moment we're born to the moment we die, we will only ever do something to the best of our abilities for one reason and one reason alone: if we want it.
You can never change another human being. So when organizations focus on change for change's sake, it will never deliver anything. In many ways, The Naked Leader encourages us to wake up to what's unique and fantastic about us, and when we do that as individual, we are far more fulfilled. In a business sense, we start to identify more with our organization.
All of the ideas in The Naked Leader stem from my experience as an IT project manager and director. Organizations have two great assets they've failed to realize over the last 15 years: technology and people. There has to be a focus on choice, and this is particularly true within IT departments, which are besieged with so much technology, so many initiatives, so many different processes, so many different ways of doing things … we need to get clarification and simplification about what we do.
PM Network: What keeps project managers from acting as leaders? What factors attribute to an absence of leadership in project management?
Here are four specific ways to get people to think more leadership and not just project management:
1. Focus on what you want rather than what you don't want. We automatically look at risk as making sure we reduce the possibility of what can go wrong. Because our minds automatically move toward whatever we most dominantly think about, the moment we start thinking about what can go wrong in a project, we'll automatically start moving toward that.
2. Get individuals to take ownership. We have far too much project management in projects and too little trust in the individuals involved. And trust is not the same as empowerment: I think empowerment is one of the saddest words we're using in organizations because people don't need to be empowered. They already are. We so often use that word to give permission that individuals already have.
3. Make true decisions. In every organization in the world, you have a weekly meeting where you make decisions, and then the next week you're still discussing the same topic you thought you'd already made the decision about the previous week. In projects that make true decisions, they say, “This is what we're going to do, and we're not going to keep revisiting this.”
4. Be persistent. A lot of projects are deemed to be failures because people give up too early. Belief and persistence play a big part in successful projects.
I think traditional project management has been about process. But project leadership—which is what I‘ll be talking about in my keynote and what project management should be about—really has nothing to do with process. When organizations have mission-critical or troubled projects, and they think about the person who needs to be in charge of the project, they want someone who is inspiring and has vision and imagination. They want someone with the ability to build networks, to influence and persuade, to see the big picture. In short, project leaders need to be businesspeople. And yet, time and time again, you go to project management courses and all project managers talk about are programs, standards and resources.
Think about where decisions are made in projects. In my experience, they are never made in project management meetings. Project leadership is about making decisions on the ground with everyone involved. When you bring a school of thought that is centered on inspirational leadership, you actually can revolutionize the way projects are driven, led and perceived in an IT organization.
Areas of Focus
Educational offerings at this year's EMEA Congress will fall in one of eight Areas of Focus:
1 Education and Certification An examination of how project management education is evolving
2 Globalization and Outsourcing How to manage the changes and challenges that come from working with distributed workforce and outsourcing business functions
3 Marketing Project Management in All Industries Best practices for selling senior management and other key stakeholders on the benefits of project management
4 Problems With Projects Processes and tools for mitigating risks and solving problems
5 Project Management Basics Core concepts
6 Project Management in the EMEA Region Project management topics specific to the region
7 Project Management Maturity A review of current management maturity models, such as the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model [OPM3®] and the Capability Maturity Model Integration [CMMI]
8 Project Management in Specific Industries Case studies based on areas such as construction, IT and government
Project Management in the United Kingdom
With its array of exhibitors, numerous networking functions and adjunct Seminars WorLd program, PMI Global Congress 2005-EMEA, 23-25 May in Edinburgh, Scotland, promises to give attendees a multi-faceted experience that will enhance their project management understanding and application.
In addition to having one of its cities host the Congress, the United Kingdom also is home to a dynamic, rapidly growing chapter of the Project Management Institute. The PMI U.K. chapter, which grew by 22 percent in 2004, currently has 2,500 members. Nick lake, U.K. chapter president, says he also has seen great strides and interest in the number of people in the region obtaining or working toward the Project Management Professional (PMP®] credential. He notes that the United Kingdom has more than 1,300 PMPs, and there are now 12 sites throughout the region that provide PMP testing.
This year, the chapter plans to hold 20 meetings, and Mr. Lake says the chapter's programming will offer members the chance to earn approximately 40 Professional Development Units (PDUs] in 2005. Through its numerous outreach programs, the chapter will continue to offer members as mentors to students who are taking project management courses at partnering universities and encourage organizations to develop their internal project management competencies.
“We are delighted to welcome the Congress to the United Kingdom: Edinburgh has been a center of culture and learning since recorded history began, [so] the location is well-chosen,” Mr. Lake says. “We expect the EMEA Congress to raise the visibility of PMI within the United Kingdom and in Europe and to raise awareness among the organizations that employ project managers and benefit from successful projects.”
“The Congress is in a very attractive location, from a professional and personal point of view. I believe it's a place where project managers can feel inspired,” says Alfonso Bucero, a member of this year's EMEA Congress Project Action Team (CoPAT]. “There are no borders for project management. Understanding the reactions and behaviors of human beings makes project professionals, because project management is dealing with people. It's about leadership.”
PM Network: How does the temporary nature of a project team affect how your concepts are applied? Can you be a real, impactive leader when a team may be a short-lived entity?
Bringing teams together temporarily for a specific project and disbanding them really is the way forward. The key role for a project leader is to recognize that every single person on the project has skill, talent and unique ability and is a leader in their own right. Organizations need to sell temporary project teams as a big plus: It gives people huge variety and the opportunity to use different strengths and skills.
You get more variation when you work with many different people. We're growing away from traditional job descriptions and moving toward people descriptions, it's something like having an ongoing curriculum vitae in organizations. People need be flexible to work on different schemes in different departments according to the needs of the organizations.
PM Network: Do you think becoming a leader is more difficult for project managers in the technology world because they are slapped with the “techie” stereotype?
IT leaders are seen as techies, robots, geeks, whatever cultural phrase works, but when you see these people outside of work, they're lively and passionate. They seem to be completely different people, but they're not. Somehow, organizations manage to suppress these personalities. When I was researching the book, I discovered a huge need for leadership skills in IT because, too often, people were completely overlooked or left out until the very end due to the perception that they just sit in the corner and do their own funny thing that nobody understands.
As a result, the “techies” have an increased desire to be special, so they use acronyms and language other people in the organization don't understand; it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. But you don't have to do all of that to feel special. The fundamental point is that we become who we think we are: If people dismiss us as techies, we'll behave that way. Equally, if people respond to us as leaders, we will behave that way.
PM Network: What message will attendees take away from your keynote?
There are no answers to how to do successful projects: There are only choices. The most critical thing for project success is to make sure the project sponsor has a close, trusted and respected relationship with the project manager or leader.
I invite people to be the best they already are by looking within themselves. In project management, we need to bring a leadership aspect to our work, have clearer dreams and outcomes and ensure everyone takes ownership of the project by making truer decisions, sharing absolute persistence and belief in one another, respecting our differences, celebrating our successes and always keeping our eye on the end goal. PM
PM NETWORK | APRIL 2005 | WWW.PMI.ORG