The “Top Project Managers'” Approach to Managing a Project

The Top Project Managers Approach to Managing a Project

For the third post in this series, I talk to the project managers who made up the “Top 14 Project Managers to Follow on Twitter” List about what has been their own approach to managing a project with success.

Schawbel: What’s your approach to managing a project?

Cheri Essner: My approach is more that of a servant leader. I am the voice of the team. It is my job to provide the clarity of vision and how initiatives fit into the big picture. We succeed or fail together. There is no finger pointing. The team as a whole are encouraged to help keep team mates accountable. I manage my projects based on appropriate PMBOK processes. My people are managed based on a foundation of trust, ability to have productive conflict, achieve commitment, hold people accountable and encourage, engage, learn and grow as we reach our collective results. I learn about the individuals on my team and what kind of diversity we have.  I love a challenge and helping people bring out the best in one another. People are allowed to stretch and to step out of their comfort zones in order to grow and learn.

I ensure that my teams receive the proper leadership, communication and team building training they require in order to be a happy, high performing team.

Michael Alan Kaplan: One thing many experienced project managers do is use established project management methodologies like the PMBOK® (Project Management Body of Knowledge) or PRINCE2 but they can also be home-grown and tailored to meet unique needs.

These published approaches are fairly similar and share two key features: projects are executed in phases and common processes are iterative and run across phases.

Many organizations lack defined processes and templates for project managers so I developed a cloud-based project management “toolkit” that includes a methodology with tasks, charts, and  examples. The SoftPMO Toolkit is designed to help guide you through the successful execution and delivery of your projects and takes advantage of tools that make it easy for team members to collaborate.

Steven Baker: I like to follow the PMI PMP methodology whenever possible. I have worked for organizations that follow it as a PMO policy, and it worked very well. My personal approach centers around building relationships and communicating with everyone on the team – that often means I have to reach out and solicit input. Soliciting input in person is a great way to build relationships with team members and stakeholders.

Susanne Madsen: My approach to managing a project is to delegate as much as possible so that I can empower, grow and encourage others to take on more responsibility. There is nothing worse than working for a project manager who doesn’t trust their team to make decisions and run with the detail. Many project managers think that they need to be super people who have to know it all and do it all on their own. But a good project manager is someone who uses the strengths of the team and who doesn’t pretend that they need to have all the answers themselves.

One of the best ways to start relying more on the team is to ask open questions and listen in order to understand what they can contribute with in terms of strengths, interests and good ideas. Ask into what people worry about, how they feel the project could be improved and what would make them feel more motivated. People are usually more motivated when they get to work on something they are skilled at and passionate about without being micro managed. As project managers we have to agree “what” outcomes we are looking for rather than dictating “how” we want people to arrive at that outcome. It’s about giving people the autonomy to figure out the “how” on their own.

From a process point of view I often manage a project by making use an iterative approach were the best from waterfall and agile methodologies are used. This often means that agile approaches are used within each major phase of the project. At the end of each phase the project is re-assessed and reviewed before the next phase is planned and executed.

Thomas Cagley: You can’t manage a project solely from your desk. Project and program managers need to begin by measuring what is important and then going out and getting their hands dirty. Getting out in the field with the project teams lets the project manager see what is really happening and to understand the context of project status reports. As a project manager, you must understand not only the numbers, but also the context of the typical project measures (e.g. time, budget, scope and productivity). I use context to shape the decisions needed to help teams deliver the value that has been promised. Tom Peters had it right when he suggested that you should manage by walking around. However it is easy to forget that simple piece of advice when you spend the majority of the day in meetings.

Jerry Ihejirika: Each approach has key features of its own but I use the traditional approach of initiation, planning and design, execution, monitoring and controlling, and completion. It is quite similar to the waterfall model. However, I am looking forward to learning some other project management approaches as my experience grows.

Check out the next post in this series:

The ‘Top Project Managers” – How the Cloud is Changing PM

Check out the first two posts of this series:

The “Top 14 Project Managers” – Their Biggest Obstacles

Most Valuable Advice from the “Top Project Managers”

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