Righting the Ship May Require Changing Perception and Reality

By: Denise Hoomes, PMP, Project Controls Specialist 

Project managers often inherit projects that are seemingly doomed from the start. Whether it’s buy-in from stakeholders, funding issues or time constraints, a project manager can be fighting an uphill battle from project inception. When there are strikes against a project from the beginning, the team often already has a negative outlook to match the project. With these types of projects, the problem is two-fold: correcting the trajectory of the project and improving the engagement of the team. Sometimes, improving the engagement of the team will correct the trajectory of the project. 

So, how does a project manager right the ship? Change both the perception and the reality. This tactic was deployed by General Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan in the post 9/11 era and applies to project management on a broad scale. By leading with an emphasis on collaboration, McChrystal’s team fought against the traditional stove-piped communication channels that typically impede innovative thinking. So, he had to change the culture. Project managers can change the culture too. In fact, General McChrystal says, “… leadership is not management. Leadership contains certain elements of good management, but it requires that you inspire, that you build durable trust. For an organization to be not just good, but to win, leadership means evoking participation larger than the job description, commitment deeper than any job contract’s wording.” 

General McChrystal placed a heavy emphasis on collaboration. How is your team collaborating? Are they stove-piped? Taking a fresh look at the culture we create as project managers can change the trajectory of the project. Lead by example.