Why did you switch project management tools

Project management: The organization often happens spontaneously instead of always according to plan!

What must a Project manager can? Most people answer this question with one keyword: multitasking. The project manager should easily switch between project meetings, permanent telephone calls and meetings of the steering group for planning, the creation of charts and project controlling. Not to forget: regular fire brigade missions, because somewhere “the hut is always on fire”.

This spontaneous reaction to the question is not surprising, because project management always takes place on the edge of chaos. After all, it is in the nature of a project that goals change in the course of the process, members change teams, deadlines are changed or the client makes new demands.

But if change in projects is normal, why don't project managers calmly lead their teams in order to counter the chaos as much as possible? Why are they still jumping from meeting to meeting and hiding behind schedules? Why do more than 50% of the projects still fail despite mature, almost “planned economy” methods and intensive “project management” training?

Because two things are often missing: Leadership skills in projects and a relaxed attitude in uncertain framework conditions.

Leadership in the project is special ...

Many project managers have leadership skills. Their experience and their instruments often come from leadership in the line. However, leadership in the project differs significantly from this:

Project teams are interdisciplinary - very different professional and cultural backgrounds have to be harmonized. I initiate temporary team consisting of engineers, marketing experts, product managers and salespeople, this is clearly different from managing a homogeneous department. In project work, each individual has to think outside the box and feel even more responsible for the overall result than in a clerical position.

In the line there are job descriptions, rules and process instructions that clarify the interfaces, responsibilities and over 70 percent of the questions of day-to-day business. This experience is lacking in the project. A project manager is therefore constantly required to initiate active interface clarifications, after all, there are no fixed rules and process instructions for things that an organization does for the first time.

Project managers lead up and down. The project captain mutually influences both the decision-makers in the project and the specialists in the project team. It must lead upwards and ensure that the client makes the necessary decisions. You can lose track of things and you need political instinct, intensive work in advance (stakeholder management) and deliberate micropolitics. On the other hand, the project manager works downwards; he has to steer the team and coordinate the specialists. It's a balancing act between sometimes conflicting interests.

Project managers are usually not disciplined with the same Management tools equipped like the managers in the hierarchy. They lead “laterally”, i.e. both laterally as a colleague and limited in time and content to the project task. This means that only a very limited formal repertoire of rewards and sanctions is available to them. So he is much more dependent on his social intuition and communication - a great challenge in the stress of the project!

In projects, people often work “part-time”. Team members may work in parallel on other projects and / or in the line organization. This can lead to a fight for resources, because the "bright minds" are not only needed in the project, but also in day-to-day business. In addition, there are the tight time limits for projects and particularly high pressure on results, which do not exactly affect everyday management make it easier.

So what needs to be specifically developed is leadership skills in the project in contrast to leadership skills in the line.

Seaman serenity helps with the organization

Successful project captains are characterized by serenity. As a man on the bridge, a project manager benefits from his wealth of experience. He knows that he will only solve problems in the situation and cannot regulate them in advance; This is why an experienced sea dog never tells his crew about an approaching storm, but does not order everyone on deck to hand out life jackets as a precaution, rather he expects storms and has already checked the position and functionality of the life jackets.

This is exactly how a nautical project manager acts: alert, focused, well prepared and with all his experience. Because if you count on project surprises instead of trying to calculate them away using statistical methods, you take away all horror and ensure that Project workflows continue to work. That is actually what the project manager is paid for - because any project member could also work through plans.

Successful project managers therefore plan alternative scenarios in advance and not ad hoc - in order to be able to keep calm in the difficult situation and, above all, to broadcast. Project management beyond the planned economy.

Leadership instead of service according to regulations

In order not to be misunderstood: I am not opposed to project management tools and methods. But against their slavish and mechanistic application. Large projects cannot be carried out effectively without project management tools and software.

But there is project management beyond the tools and here it is necessary to recognize that projects consist of people and that reality is something other than a linear chain of planned events. It's about saying goodbye to engineering thinking in project management and about the fundamental insight that "it" can always be different than expected. That means thinking in alternatives and understanding plans as a possible course that can be adapted and changed at any time - and to represent this to the project team.

Line functions such as distribution, sales or accounting are more or less clearly described activities in which such Leadership decisions occur comparatively rarely. Whoever takes on the role of project manager, however, has to be clear: In projects it is not enough to know the rules of the project management manual - undecidable problems that require special management skills will certainly arise.

Successful project management therefore begins long before the kick-off for the first planning round. Instead of forging elaborate plans, successful process managers go out into the organization with nautical serenity and secure your project directly and personally. Alert and ready to cooperate, they form coalitions of the willing, juggle with different interests and take care of the history of the project.

Anyone who acts in this way uses planning tools and lists of indents for what they are: methods of support.

(Image: © alphaspirit - fotolia.de)

advises and coaches executives and project managers. As a self-confessed Hanseatic, he guides his customers through challenging situations and supports them in carrying out their tasks with serenity. Before he started his own business, Olaf Hinz worked, among other things, as the office manager of Peer Steinbrück, then Minister of Economics in Schleswig-Holstein and HR manager at LB Kiel. He publishes regularly on key aspects of his consulting topics. Many of these contributions are available at www.hinz-wektiven.de.