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Are you a PM, a Leader, or Both? (1/2)


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According to the PMBOK guide from the PMI, a project manager should have the Talent triangle which is a set of three skills. The first one is the technical project management skills to master integrating the project management tools, methods, and processes to deliver the project output. The second one is the strategic and business management to understand the corporate’s top-level objectives and translate them to the project team and the relevant stakeholders. Coming to the third and last one, Leadership, it looks to be the most difficult to apprehend and to master since it does not comprise clear processes or logically built methods.


Project managers are most of the time engineers or simply highly qualified people used to clear and logical processes with previously known inputs and well predicted outputs. This algorithmic way of doing business eliminates the human and emotional dimensions and put the social factor out of the work environment. This could be efficient for small businesses or simple activities and even for atomic projects. Nevertheless, for bigger projects, higher complexity and then, the human factor cannot be shaded no longer. Moreover, it could be the Achilles heel for the project and the biggest concern the project manager could face.


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Dealing with each member of the project team is complicated, but to unscramble the relationships between the team members and predict their effect on the project progress is quiet more difficult and needs more tact and experience. Even if the project manager perceived the project team from a holistic point of view or from the atomistic one, it is important to mention that a team of N members, means N*(N-1)/2 relationships between each couple of team members. Then, the 10 members team represents in reality the complex set of 45 inter-relationships to manage, to harness, and why not to manipulate.


One of the biggest difficulties to lead project teams comes from one of the intrinsic characteristics of projects, all are time-bound. Then, since each project has a start and an end date, the project teams have also a lifespan starting with forming the group and ending with adjourning it. According to Tuckman’s model of groups’ development, each team would go through a storming phase before the norming and the performing ones. Hence, if the project manager failed to be a good leader and did not know how to navigate through the stormy phase, all the project could be compromised. Federating the forces and unifying the vision by recalling frequently the common objectives and killing the contention points could save the project success.


The second biggest difficulty comes from outside the project. The project team is far from being an isolated system from the external environment. The team members could be not enough resilient to the external professional pressure, could have personal priorities or familial concerns, could simply have many commitments to different parties like their country or their community, and could have bigger ambitions or better professional offers. In this case, the project manager should use his communication skills to diagnose the disruption causes and prevent any late problem detection.

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