How to become a top-performing, highly sought after Project Manager


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How to become a top-performing, highly sought after Project Manager

  1. 1. 11/16/2011How to become a topperforming, highly-sought-after Project ManagerDifferentiating factors of the best project managers Evans Munyuki, MPM, Cert.Dir – 4th Edition
  2. 2. Evans Munyuki, MPM, Cert.Dir – 4th EditionHow to become a top performing,highly-sought-after Project ManagerDifferentiating factors of the best project managersMaybe you are a professional Project Manager, or maybe you are not aprofessional Project Manager, but you are managing a key project and you’relooking for that edge that helps you succeed.This white paper seeks to highlight key differentiating factors which separateand distinguish top-performing, highly-sought-after managers of projects.The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines a project as a “temporaryendeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service.i”Project management is defined as the discipline of planning, organizing,securing, and managing resources to achieve specific goalsii (completion of theproject).Though the project management profession has only become popular to manyof us over the past couple of decades, Project Managers have been around formany years. In fact, project management has been around since earlycivilization.Setting the stage for project managementThe Project Management Institute (PMI) was formed as far back as 1969, andthe history of planning and control techniques dates back to the 1800s to HenryGantt the father of planning and control (remember the Gantt Chart), andeven further back to the 1600s when architects like Christopher Wren ran theirown projects building and re-building churches in London.Project Management has a wealth of history upon which top-performance canbe built. Today, it is barely possible to successfully build products withoutleveraging the leadership of top-performing Project Managers. 1
  3. 3. Evans Munyuki, MPM, Cert.Dir – 4th EditionHowever, as we look at the profession of Project Management, it quicklybecomes clear that not all project managers are created equal.There are Project Managers who make you want to hug your mother in law, and thereare Project Managers who make you want to kick your cat.The Project Managers who make you want to hug your mother in law are thetop-performing, highly-sought-after Project Managers – the guys and girls wecan’t get enough of – the CEOs of their businesses (their projects), the breaths offresh air. As I have taken on various job roles running businesses and running information technology organizations, I have observed and concluded that good project management leadership, governance, and execution is a differentiator of project execution, and ultimately it can be a key differentiator for top company performance.In my career, I have had the opportunity to work with many different types ofproject managers whose personalities and execution I will associate with 6archetypes (models of personality and behavior).The 6 project management archetypesThe 6 project management archetypes which have caught my observation are:The Dynamic Cowboys, The Peaceful Whiners, The Bulls in a China Shop, TheDiplomatic Diplomats, The Sleeping Beauties, and The Persevering Pilots.The Dynamic Cowboys are Project Managers who understand that there is amission to be accomplished without fail. They ride their horses, take aim, andshoot as and when necessary without allowing themselves to be slowed downby the law (governance, policies and procedures). They can be a bit noisy(metaphorically speaking), they have unconventional methods, but they getthe job done - fast. They run an operation which sometimes feels like a ride on arodeo bull, but at such moments they know how to keep one hand in the airwhile the other firmly holds onto the saddle strap. Come what may, they get the 2
  4. 4. Evans Munyuki, MPM, Cert.Dir – 4th Editionjob done. The project gets completed. The product gets built. When they aredone, you may have some clean-up to do, you may find areas where theydidn’t follow the right process, and you may find areas where you have to put inplace further risk mitigation steps as their actions (with good intentions) maycreate other problems, but the job gets done. Performance Opportunity: If you’re a Dynamic Cowboy, you have a natural strength which helps you get things done. You may want to capitalize on that strength by becoming aware of key processes which you need to follow so you can decide how to handle them (during the project or after the project). The Peaceful Whiners have the unique ability to quickly understanding the issues. They are very good at understanding and highlighting all the problems and risks you need to know about. However they are likely to not suggest solutions to the problems. They are also likely to stay fixated on the problems and if not careful, they can get paralyzed by the volumes of problems to the point where they themselves can quickly begin to doubt the possibility of the projectever reaching completion and ever achieving its objectives. Performance Opportunity: If you’re a Peaceful Whiner, you have a natural strength which helps you see trouble a mile away. You may want to capitalize on that strength by surrounding yourself with people who can help identify actions you can take in order to mitigate risks and potential project derailers. You may also want to practice the attributes described further in this whitepaper.The Bulls in a China Shop can be aggressive and sometimes can be borderlineabrasive. They get the job done, but you are likely to get some collateraldamage along the way. Some of them don’t have high emotional intelligence.They don’t really focus on the relational and softer aspects of their stakeholdercommunity. They can sometimes be heard in meetings as they issue instructions 3
  5. 5. Evans Munyuki, MPM, Cert.Dir – 4th Editionand communicate in ways that can make army generals look tame. However,the job does get done! They achieve their objectives. The question is how manymore projects are project teams willing to work on with these individuals. It’s aquestion of collateral damage – mostly unnecessary damage. Performance Opportunity: If you’re a Bull in a China Shop, you have a natural strength of momentum, strength, and focus. You may want to capitalize on that strength by learning to be a bit more aware of the china around you – the project team members and stakeholders. You don’t want to break them apart as you focus on getting the project completed. You want to be able to complete the project, and have a team left which can help you with your next project.The Diplomatic Diplomats - The Diplomatic Diplomats have very high emotionalintelligence. They seek to balance the needs of their various constituents. Theyare great at using peace-based, carrot-based strategies for incentivizingperformance by their project teams. Diplomatic Diplomats can sometimes findthat there can be a lot of talk at the cost of getting things done. Performance Opportunity: If you’re a Diplomatic Diplomat, you have a natural strength which helps you bring people together. You may want to leverage this strength to get the people focused, to get them owning action items, and to hold them accountable for delivering on their commitments.The Sleeping Beauties are really pleasant to have around. They are gentle, theydont make a whole lot of noise (metaphorically speaking), and they aregenerally conflict-avoiding individuals. They try to get the project managedwithout pushing anyone into a difficult position which in itself is not necessarily abad objective. However, some sleeping beauties dont really know what theirprojects are about, and what benefits their projects business cases seek todeliver. Some dont have Project Schedules and Project Plans. Some dont wantto upset people (which is not necessarily bad), and they gently hum along withthe activities at hand. They dont ‘drive different outcomes. Rather they aregood at telling you whats happening - as if it’s a dream they are having withlittle ability to influence the dream’s plot and outcome. Almost as if they are 4
  6. 6. Evans Munyuki, MPM, Cert.Dir – 4th Editionrepeater stations in a radio network (as my awesome manager, Sue Lambert,used to call them). Performance Opportunity: If you’re a Sleeping Beauty, you probably find project management to be a bit of a slippery slope as your projects may tend to take lives of their own, like dreams – or should I say, like nightmares upon which you have no control. You may want to take active control of your projects – almost like a person who has a day-dream and influences its outcome. You may want to practice the attributes described further in this whitepaper. You may also want to surround yourself with people that can help you compensate for your areas of weakness. The Persevering Pilots show up for their flights before the passengers board the plane. They show up with predefined checklists of everything that needs to be in order before they take the plane for flight. They realize their dependencies on various key components which include: their plane’s equipment, their flight crew, the ground crew, the traffic controllers, the weather, and their passengers. They create work breakdown structures, and they create clearly defined tasks withowners who know when to do what. They fly the plane. They monitor theweather conditions. They monitor their risk profiles. They sense and respond totheir surroundings. Though they have a flight plan, they realize that weatherconditions do change, and they adjust their execution as the conditionschange. When they sense turbulence in the distance, they do their riskassessments to ensure the plane can handle flying through it. If not, they findalternate routes. They seek to make the flight as pleasant as possible for boththeir flight crew (project teams) and their passengers (clients/stakeholders). Theystay in communication with their stakeholder community. Whatever happens,they focus on getting you to your destination safely, on time, and in one piece.They focus on persevering inspite of the conditions they meet in the skies. Theyhave the best of preparation, the best of tools, the best of equipment, the bestof stakeholder management, the best of focus on their target objective, andeven then, they know that anything can change, and they know how to adjusttheir execution plans to the changing conditions which surround them. They sit in 5
  7. 7. Evans Munyuki, MPM, Cert.Dir – 4th Editiontheir offices (the cockpit) with a view to die for. They run their business of flight asthe CEOs of the mission. The Persevering Pilots are the perfect archetype for top-performing, highly-sought-after Project Managers.Becoming the big cheese in project managementSo, how do you become a Top-Performing Project Manager? What are thebehaviours you should demonstrate in order to become a top-performingProject Manager? What differentiates average Project Managers from the bestof the best?What do Top-performing, highly-sought-after Project Managers do? How canyou become a top-performing, highly-sought-after Project Manager? 1. In order to become a top-performing, highly-sought-after Project Manager, know and understand your business. As a top-performing project manager, you must understand what business you are in, and how your business makes a profit. 2. Understand what your project is about. Become the first ‘converted’ person who clearly buys into your project. If you don’t understand what your project is about, you will run the risk of failing as you will probably not know the key levers to drive in order to ensure success. By truly understanding what your project is about, you are better positioned to recruit top project team members. 3. Understand the business case behind your project and the benefits it promises to deliver. Internalize it, and have skin-in-the-game to deliver the benefits promised by the business cases. If your project business case makes promises which can never be delivered on, go and speak with your project sponsor (fast) so you don’t waste your time driving actions which will never result in any recognized success. 4. Have a project schedule with clarity on key tasks, task owners, due dates, and persistent follow-up on tasks. It is not enough to send someone an 6
  8. 8. Evans Munyuki, MPM, Cert.Dir – 4th Edition email with a request. Follow-up and keep following up until you get completion of the task.5. Upon taking on your projects, review and baseline the projects to ensure the project is geared to succeed and has practical achievable expectations. During this effort, if you find gaps in resourcing, schedule expectations, or financials, address them to ensure project success.6. Know and manage your stakeholders. Top project managers fully understand that stakeholders can make or break a project. All it takes is to have one overlooked stakeholder who comes from an unforeseen angle and totally throws off the project. You must know and manage all your key stakeholders. This includes your project team, project sponsors, project supporters, project beneficiaries, and project haters. The Chinese general & military strategist, Sun-tzu, once said: "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." This principle is so relevant in stakeholder management.7. Learn to sell. You don’t have to become a fast-talking spin-doctoring car sales man. However, at some point, you will find it necessary to convince other people to exchange something of value (which they have) for something else (which you offer) which is what selling is all aboutiii. The ‘something of value’ which you want could be executive support for your project, resources for your project, funding to get your project launched, etc. Learning the basic skills of getting people to buy into your requests is a key skill.8. Become a persevering pilot with a clear understanding of your flight destination, your flight plans, where the weather is forecasted to be bad, and what you need to do to manage your risks. Be on top of your project. Know what’s going on. Know how to change the results and outcomes of your projects. When you need help, ask. If unsure, ask. Surround yourself with people that can help you achieve your project’s objectives. 7
  9. 9. Evans Munyuki, MPM, Cert.Dir – 4th Edition 9. Learn to mitigate the key risks which your project faces. Just like a pilot who monitors where the turbulence is, know where the risks are. Know how to mitigate them. Know which risks you can transfer to someone else, risks you can avoid, and risks whose likelihood of occurrence you can reduce. Just like a pilot, at times you may chose to fly through turbulence, but you only do so after careful assessment of the risk profile, possible duration, etc. 10. Manage and Lead. Project Management can be one of the best training grounds for top leadership talent because it forces you to learn the art of leadership. As John Maxwell correctly points out, “Leadership is influence.” Project Management teaches you to deliver results using resources and people who mostly don’t even report to you – this is where the strength of influence comes in – leadership. Influence the resources you have. Influence the outcomes of your work efforts. Influence your deliverables so they achieve the project’s objectives and deliver the promised benefits. Embrace this opportunity to lead (influence) and make the best out of it. 11. Deliver the goods! Make your name the brand of execution upon which delivery is built. Make your name a household brand which becomes known for getting things done! Do what you said you would. Inspite of all the challenges you may have faced with the project, and despite the many valid excuses you could stand behind, deliver the goods. Deliver the project. And close it off. Be known for delivering the goods – for getting things done – for responding to communications – for being on top of your game – for delivering the goods. 12. Don’t let power get to your head, don’t talk down on people, don’t become full of yourself, be the kind of person you would want to work for. Persevering pilots don’t show up late for their flight, and then spend time trying to impress everyone with how important they are. Instead, they are early, they swiftly allocate key tasks to their project teams (the crew), everything is done swiftly, with grace, with precision, yet with authority, like clockwork, while yet never giving passengers the impression that there is a big-headed self-important dude running the show in the cockpit. The 8
  10. 10. Evans Munyuki, MPM, Cert.Dir – 4th Edition project managers I love most are the guys and girls who are able to get the job done effectively and efficiently without losing their cool, without throwing their toys out of their pram every other minute, without losing their emotional intelligence, without losing people along the way, while show true leadership qualities in their execution. You can be firm while yet being a reasonable and pleasant human being to be around.13. If you see team members who are stuck, give them guidance. Offer to help your people – guide them. Coach them. Let them know it’s okay to try things, and set the groundrules upon which it’s okay to make mistakes – just remember there are mistakes you can get yourself out of, and there are mistakes you can’t get yourself out of. Be clear with your teams on your expectations. Ask them to alert you early if there are problems so you can have a real opportunity at helping correct the problems. Support your teams. Stand behind them. Let them know you’ve got their backs.14. Be impatient with people who repeatedly don’t deliver. You might think this point contradicts the point above, but it doesn’t. People will tend to rise (or fall) to your level of (communicated) expectation. If you set ground-rules of non-tardy delivery right up-front, and if you proceed to hold people accountable, with clear consequences for non-delivery and clear rewards for delivery, you will get better execution. If the person continues to not deliver, get someone else. This task is hardest for project managers because you have to use influence (leadership) in cases where the person does not report to you.15. Harvest the experience, knowledge, and insights of team members who are smarter and more experienced than you. Don’t feel threatened. Don’t feel you need to prove how smart you are. Put them to work. Get them busy. Seek their points of view before you make decisions. Surround yourself with people who compensate for areas where you are not as strong – you won’t be able to get to everything anyway, so leverage your team’s strengths. Welcome the differences which your team brings as they help ensure a robust, balanced execution base. 9
  11. 11. Evans Munyuki, MPM, Cert.Dir – 4th Edition 16. Less “I” and more “We.” If you are still busy trying to show your people just how ‘clever’ you are, then you are probably not yet ready to lead. If you often feel that way, you may want to get over yourself already, so you can harvest the greater output from your team – you will get the credit anyway ☺ 17. EXTRA CREDIT ACTION (only for the really serious top performers!): Go a step further - do all you can to try and ensure that your project delivers the benefits it promises. This is much easier said than done as it gets you into the deployment phases of your project. But the sooner you get your mind around this concept, the sooner you get yourself into more strategic dialogue with key decision-influencers, decision-makers, and project sponsors because: a. it forces you to actually understand your project’s business case b. It forces you to ensure the promised benefits are realistic. This can help with the right levels of dialogue with key executives (who will appreciate early warnings if things won’t be as they expect). Assume that your project will deliver a software application which enables a new product/service and enables your sales force to sell $10,000 worth of these products/services per month. If your project only goes live in October, at best, your sales force can only generate $20,000 of revenue in the current year – not 12 x $10,000 = $120,000 in the current year. These are common sense considerations which sometimes get forgotten about resulting in revenue promises which cannot be met, resulting in the project getting blamed for the lack of realization of benefits which could have never been realized. 10
  12. 12. Evans Munyuki, MPM, Cert.Dir – 4th Editionc. It forces you to think about tasks you can run in parallel. For example, if you are running a software development project, life doesn’t just end when the software release goes live there are users to be trained; there are sales people to be trained on the new product you are building; the sales people must start building sales pipelines; there are client materials that need to be prepared to inform clients of your new offerings; there is your company website which needs to be updated with information regarding this new capability which your project is building or enabling, and the list goes on...d. It forces you to be recognized by business leaders as a difference- maker, a top-performer, and a person that is in touch with the business. Let’s look at 2 pilots: a regular pilot, and a persevering pilot. A regular pilot may say that he flew a plane and landed it safely on time with all 260 passengers aboard, and without expending more than 5% of his fuel allocation. In a totally different and refreshing conversation a persevering pilot would say that she flew a plane with 260 passengers aboard, of which 3 were medical doctors and 3 were business people. Upon arrival, the medical doctors made it on time to the hospital where they operated on 3 people each and saved 3 lives that day. The 3 business people made it on time to their client’s offices where they closed 3 mega deals which resulted in the creation of 10,000 jobs, thus contributing to the possible reduction of unemployment and a possible increase in the number of tax payers. This is the level of involvement I am proposing for ‘top-performing, highly-sought-after project managers.’ This is not a Project Management 101 exercise because it is not easy to do, but it is this type of thinking, influence, and execution which 11
  13. 13. Evans Munyuki, MPM, Cert.Dir – 4th Edition separates the top performers. You can find the business benefits nicely documented in the business case (if your organization takes business cases seriously). Think “business benefits.” If your project delivers no benefits at all, then question why you are doing it and try to align it with benefits that a sponsor will care about. As you think and focus on delivery of business benefits, you broaden your organizational scope of influence. You become relevant to business leaders. Business leaders stop running away from you from fear of project- management-speak of Work-Breakdown-Structures, Earned Value, and Empirical Frequency Distributions for probability and statistics involved in PERT ☺ Instead, when business leaders see you, they run to you because they know you will deliver Revenue Growth (show me the money!), Profit Growth (yummy…), Cost reduction, Operational Efficiencies, Risk Avoidance and Mitigation (getting off unsupported software), etc. In other words, Benefits, benefits, benefits.As you practice these skills, along with your other key strengths, you will find thatyou are well on your way to becoming a top-performing, highly-sought-afterproject manager.Best of luck as you continue to work on wow-ing your business with topperformance!Feedback – Your thoughts?You can provide the author feedback at 12
  14. 14. Evans Munyuki, MPM, Cert.Dir – 4th EditionAbout the authorEvans Munyuki is the Head of Architecture for ABSA Bank and Barclays Bank (Africa) covering retailbanking, business banking, corporate investment banking and wealth management, as well asbancassurance. The IT organization serves approx 42,000 internal system users & approx 14 millioncustomers. Absa’s retail bank is the largest in South Africa.Before that, Evans was the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for ABSA Business Bank (ABB) - a large set of13 Business Units in one of South Africa’s largest financial services groups, ABSA. Served approximately4,000 internal system users. Evans and his team successfully delivered 73 key projects which de-riskedthe bank, added new products & services, increased efficiencies, improved stability, and reduced costs.Before that, Evans was the Group Chief Information Officer (CIO) at The Kelly Group - a listed companywith 11 companies in the USA & South Africa (SA) and 23,000+ employees. He and his team successfullydelivered 10 key large projects which drove new and diversified revenue streams, provided immediatetangible cost savings, and enhanced operational efficiencies.Evans was a nominee for the Visionary CIO of the Year 2010 Award. He was shortlisted as 1 of the top 9Visionary CIOs in South Africa.Evans was the Winner of the "Top Thought Leader Award" at the CIO Summit 2011 in Cape Town, SouthAfrica.Before that, Evans worked for IBM in the USA and in South Africa for over 15 years where he held manyexecutive roles and key leadership roles driving P&L business leadership, business transformation, andtechnology transformation. Prior to that, Evans held IT Manager roles in midsized companies in the USA.Evans is a member of the ABSA Africa IT Leadership Team. He is a Non-Executive Director on the Boardof Directors for the Institute of Directors (IoD), and he is a member of the IoD Board RemunerationCommittee. Formerly, Evans was a member of the ABSA Business Bank executive committee, a boardmember on the advisory board for the CIO Africa Summit 2011, The Kelly Group ExCo, The Kelly GroupRisk Committee, as well as a member of The IBM Global Technology Services ExCo in South Africa.Evans holds 3 degrees in Electronics Engineering (Nash Community College USA), BusinessAdministration (North Carolina Wesleyan College USA), and in Project Management (Western CarolinaUniversity USA).Evans has held certifications as a PMI Certified Project Manager, IBM Certified Consultant, IBM CertifiedExecutive Project Manager, and an IoD Certified Director.You can contact Evans at and you can find him on LinkedIn can view more of Evans’ publications on 13
  15. 15. Evans Munyuki, MPM, Cert.Dir – 4th EditionReferencesi A guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (3rd Edition, published by the PMI , 2004ii 14