In my career, I have had opportunities to work together with various great project teams, delivering challenging programs, both as vendor and as customer.
After leaving my previous employer Ford Turkey, I moved on to Project Management consultancy area recently. This has enabled me to share my 20 years’ worth project management experience, harnessed with technical, budgetary, cultural and stakeholder management type challenges. Main driver for me to make this move was the fact that, despite my exit from the active operational environment and the manufacturing world, the sector did not leave me alone! After my move, in many occasions, I was approached by ex-colleagues, customers around the globe, asking for advice on guidance on a variety of topics in the area of project management. This made me realize that, through many successful projects, (some not so successful but experience building ones as well), I have a unique set of skills and experience base which I was luckily enough to develop in the area of project management in manufacturing sector, and I should share this!
Out of the many questions and inquiries that people have asked me, there was one common question that stood out: “the secret recipe” behind project success!
For this reason, I decided to reflect upon my 20 years of experience in this area and attempt to distill the key ingredients for the right “recipe” for project success. I am hoping that practitioners can/will benefit from these key success areas while preparing and planning for their future projects:
1. While forming the project team, ensure that the composition of the project team includes a diverse set of; technical skills, experience base and personality traits. This will enable out of the box discussions, debates and constructive intra-team challenges to help achieve project optimization.
2. Creating workplace environment which will enable each project leader to express their emotions, demonstrate their skills & problem solving abilities and avoid group thinking.
3. Decide together as a team on all important milestones, phases and transition periods to avoid tackling immense time & money pressures.
4. If the wider organization’s culture includes policies and practices that resembles a “fear republic”, then it is the program manager’s duty to deal with this in a timely manner and a courageous way, so that the project team is shielded from all these without being distracted and emotionally impacted.
5. Emphasize and highlight your team member’s strong sides while coaching and mentoring them on their areas of improvement. Never criticize your team members in a group situation and expose their weaknesses. This ensures team integrity and coherence. In my case, I was always authentic and made sure that my team was never suspicious about my behaviors & attitudes towards them.
6. Encourage socialization, create the environment so that team members are able to have a laugh and share personal aspects of their lives (as much as people are prepared to of course). Again in my past projects, I facilitated entertainment activities and social gatherings for my teams. This type of activities positively impacts the team-dynamics in the work-place.
7. Business environment could be tough and challenging, your job as the project lead is protect them from outsider pressure at all costs. This is your “buffer” role and this gives your project team breathing space and room to focus on the key deliverables.
8. Never dictate your issues or concerns on the team. Try to communicate your issues with them in a consultative way while giving them an opportunity reflect and provide feedback, by simply giving them a voice! Through this you may get significant input to improve the project and also buy-in from your sub-ordinates! This approach will help Project leaders to take-up and own their responsibilities by their hearts and minds; this is a proven recipe for success in task delivery.
In conclusion, I tried to summarize these 8 key points which helped me deliver successful program and projects in my career, in other words my “recipe for project success“. Above all, my experience has shown me that social and cultural interactions are key drivers in achieving project success in a sustainable way. Processes such as disciplined milestone management, scheduling tools, budget monitoring etc. are all significant pillars for any project, but these are tangible and predictable to a certain degree, however human behavior and psychology are intangible and are not predictable. Then the next question comes: “How can we achieve optimum and consistent level of harmony and dedication from project team (”teamness”) during a project; in other words while working hard on a complex, tangible and exhaustive issues, how can we still be able to develop and maintain close personal relationships within the team? I can simply state my answer in one word. The word is “respect”. Personally I always made sure that I genuinely respect the personality traits, creativity and styles of people that I was lucky enough to work with. I can only hope that this was reciprocal and my colleagues, project team members appreciated my authentic and respectful style. Numerous positive feedbacks from my colleagues and friends can only be a good sign of my humble assumption.
I can only wish that all program managers have the opportunity to get involved or lead a project at least once in their careers, where the right ingredients are mixed in right quantities to create the “perfect recipe” to deliver a successful project while the team members feel valued, proud and actually good about themselves.