Great project managers have great networks

Much research over the last twenty years has attempted to identify the characteristics of successful project managers. However, more recently, this has been questioned and replaced with a more interesting debate. What makes for successful project management? The argument goes that even the ‘best’ project manager acting alone without support from the organization and appropriate collaboration with peers and other stakeholders is unlikely to be successful.

In our own research on the characteristics of successful project managers, we found that the high performers were much more likely to have extended personal and professional relationships within and outside their organizations. It wasn’t just that they had more expertise to draw upon, but also that when they needed to interact with stakeholders, to further the goals of their projects, they were more likely to have pre-existing relationships to draw upon. They built up and valued ‘social capital’ in ways that less experienced project managers were unlikely to do.

Great project managers have great networks

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Project manager: accountable for what?

As a job profiling consultant specialising in project management, I often hear questions like,Responsibility-ahead-Blog-14 ‘Who is responsible for…?’ and ‘Am I responsible for…?’ As questions, they seem straightforward enough, but further consideration reveals the complexity that can underlie them. Perhaps the questioner is just filling an acceptable gap in knowledge, or a check on understanding, but the question may also be reflecting more deep-seated management, or indeed company culture related problems:

  • confusion – nobody is clear who is responsible for what, and therefore who is going to take what action
  • fear – of having to take on responsibilities for which one is not properly equipped
  • anxiety – at having to be accountable for the discharge of the responsibility
  • concern – at the possibility of having to be accountable, without having discharged the responsibility oneself
  • anger – at having to take on responsibility that one feels should be discharged by someone else for a variety of reasons
  • frustration – trying to find out who is responsible in order to get action taken, make a complaint or obtain redress
  • ignorance – of the way in which responsibilities have been delegated or distributed and therefore who should be discharging them
  • obfuscation – when debates about who is responsible result in, or are used to explain, delays and inaction.

Perhaps you recognise some of these?

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Is this why South Africans make great project managers?

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One of the delights of taking part in the Success Stories Shared initiative is that you get to hear the stories from projects managers across a whole range of disciplines

I always start the session by asking the manager how they got into project management.  Invariably it turns out to be by chance or by some convoluted series of career and job moves.  Indeed, in my entire career of coaching and interviewing project managers – I’ve only met one person, a woman – who from school had set her mind on being a project manager.  She is now one of the youngest Partners in Deloitte’s!

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Are you getting value from your risk management approaches?

Most portfolio offices collect information on risks (and sometimes issues) but the risk statements supplied by projects are often unfocused and poorly defined. It seems that while many project managers can tell us what a risk is, few really understand the concept of risk and how to get real value from the risk practices they apply.

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