One thing that I learned very early in my career is that project management is a relationship business whose goal is to create the best possible customer experience. It's easy to write, but not an easy thing to achieve. Very rarely does a person come into the profession and ace it straight away. There's no qualification you can attain that instantly makes you good at building relationships with people from all walks of life. It takes time, effort, flexibility, failure and continuous improvement.
In his TedTalk 'Being Brilliant Every Day', Dr Alan Watkins says that in order to change results or performance you need to change behaviour and that if you don't ask people questions, you'll never be able to build relationships. Yet behaviour and relationships, are usually the last thing we think about when it comes to developing project managers.
In their recent Chaos Survey, Jennifer Lynch from the Standish Group reinforced this point when asked if organisations were doing enough to increase the skills of project managers. She said 'No, this is real shortfall. Moving investments from PM systems and other worthless activities should improve success and value rates. Everyone is looking for a quick fix, but investing in people takes time, but offers a much bigger payout in the end.'
The first part of changing the approach is to recognise and acknowledge the current state. There are five types of project manager and their style is directly proportional to the customer experience. Which ones do you recognise, either in your own style or your organisation?
The Avoider (Customer is disengaged)
The avoider does everything but manage the project. They'll do business analysis, process design, tell you they're too busy, or even manage the stationery cupboard, rather than take responsibility for managing the project. They don't do relationship building, except in the kitchen where they like to talk about others.
The Administrator (Customer is dissatisfied)
The administrator has been on all the project management courses and even puts letters after their name to prove it. They won't contemplate starting until a) they have been provided with all of the templates they've read that they need to succeed, and b) filled every one of them out in isolation at their desks. They form close bonds with their paperwork, but not so much with human beings.
The Controller (Customer is satisfied)
The controller has a plan and some structure but hasn't built the relationships with the team. Instead, they rely on what they call directness and other old school behaviours to get the project delivered. Often, organisations' approach to project management ('just get on and do it') forces good project managers down to this level.
The Builder (Customer is engaged)
The builder recognises the importance of planning and relationships and creates a team that knows what it will take to succeed. They build confidence with stakeholders and involve the team in the decision-making process. They treat people in the right way and always look for opportunities to do things differently.
The Leader (Customer is delighted)
The leader knows that only through relationships will the project succeed. They take the time to do this at the start and inspire the team to do likewise. The customer is at the forefront of the team's decision-making and they want to deliver a product everyone can be proud of. They're the people that you'd work for again and who make projects fun.
Only through builders and leaders will your projects achieve what you expect of them and provide a positive project experience to those that work on them. The relentless focus on time and cost however, continues to fill organisations with administrators and controllers.
Project managers have been measured in the wrong way for years now. For project management to start delivering on the promises it makes to organisations, it has to start measuring relationships and customer experience.
The ProjectNPS tool captures both. It provides real-time feedback on the elements of a PMs approach that can be improved and the behaviours and practices to be held up as an example to others. It takes the project manager on a journey from being informed to being self-aware and the organisation on a journey of honesty, higher staff engagement, cost reduction and projects to be proud of.
What steps is your organisation taking to change the project management approach?
How 'human' are your project managers in their approach to relationship building?
For more information or to get a brochure on ProjectNPS, email firstname.lastname@example.org.