We all know that the business landscape is changing rapidly – it seems that no sooner have we got to grips with a new technology or product than it is being replaced with a newer, better version. So organisations have to be able to respond quickly to changing circumstances, expectations and needs.
And yet some projects continue to move so slowly that what they intend to deliver is out of date long before the due date. Projects can, and must, change as they proceed but perhaps the real issue is whether they embrace change and react to it positively. The attitude to change has as much to do with the nature of individuals as it has to do with the project management method(s) being employed.
Some would argue that this is where agile project management comes in; agile proponents will also talk about the collaborative relationships developed in an agile environment but collaborative working is not the preserve of one method or another. No single project management method will ever be the panacea for all ills because all projects are different, corporations are different and people are different. Agile projects are no more likely to succeed than traditional projects if other influences are at play.
More important than debating the benefits of “traditional” or “agile” approaches, is to focus on the people involved.
A good project manager can lead a successful project regardless of the method used, especially when backed up by a good team, but what does this really mean? A “good” project manager or team? Of course they would be expected to have certain skills or experience – they may need quite specific technical skills for an IT or engineering project, for instance, but what else?
What will make a difference to the success of a project is people who can see, and do, what is required in any particular circumstance. This is not an easy attribute to learn if it is not an innate part of your personality. But behaviours can be changed and new skills can be learnt.
It is for good reason that traditional methods of managing projects have evolved so it is important to value their benefits while accepting that the sheer pace of business in the 21st century requires a more flexible approach to project delivery, but also one that focusses on competencies – the skills, behaviours, attitudes and knowledge – of the people involved.
When we talk about a project manager’s toolbox we should be thinking not just of methods and software but also personal skills, soft and otherwise. Perhaps we should expend less energy arguing our corner over methodologies and instead look at how we, as individuals, work and deal with typical project situations – not just our soft skills but our reaction to setbacks, conflict, criticism, etc. But maybe that’s easier said than done…