The Secret Sauce of Project Management: Beyond Art and Science

    The Secret Sauce of Project Management
    The Secret Sauce of Project Management

    Brian Williams became the NBC Nightly News anchor in December of 2004. In February of 2015, he was suspended for six months for incorrectly claiming that he had been in a helicopter that came under fire in 2003.

    The incident created a firestorm of debate regarding news reporters, their ability to tell the truth, and viewers’ ability to believe what they hear. Once a news reporter is known to fabricate stories instead of provide facts, the public will question whatever that reporter says in the future.

    This issue is not unique to news reporters. Many professions have to be concerned with their credibility. Project managers are just as susceptible to being believed as any other profession.

    The science of project management

    Many people see project management as a science. The project manager collects estimates and creates a timeline. She tracks the progress of each task from each team member. She monitors and records risks, and develops mitigation strategies for each. She records each project issue and drives them to resolution.

    Project management can also be seen as an art. A project manager must be creative in finding solutions to work within defined constraints. The project manager must be a leader. She must understand what drives each project stakeholder and develop strategies to communicate and incentivize each individual uniquely. She must also develop creative approaches to combine all of the statistical metrics to deliver value to the end user.

    If a project manager can skillfully combine the art and science of project management, she increases her odds of success exponentially. However, if the project manager can stir in the secret sauce, she increases her chances of success even more.

    The secrete sauce of project management is credibility

    Like a news reporter, a project manager must ensure that her stakeholders trust her. The most literal part of credibility is believability – do the business stakeholders believe what the project manager says and have confidence that she can do the job?

    For more information, check out The Importance of Leadership in Project Management

    Credibility is built on many things

    Confidence. Does she speak with certainty or does she come off as unsure? How often does the business ask a question that she can answer instead of saying, “I’ll have to check on that for you?”

    Details. Does the project manager know the nuts and bolts of the product she is delivering? Has she learned just the “surface facts” or has she delved down to know specific bits of information, how they are related and the consequences decisions will have on them?

    Respect. Does she treat the stakeholder with respect? Does she show up on time for meetings? Does she listen to the business’s problems and act on them?

    Decisiveness. Dovetailing with confidence, can the project manager make decisions and justify them when the stakeholder disagrees? Or does she shrug off decisions and defer to others on the project?

    Credibility is the perception of being capable. There are many who believe that Brian Williams should have been fired rather than suspended. That’s because they no longer see him as capable. He no longer has credibility with a large segment of his stakeholders.

    If any stakeholders lack the confidence in your ability as a project manager, you will lose credibility with them. Once credibility is lost, it is hard to regain.

    What do you do to earn and maintain credibility with your stakeholders?

    If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

    Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

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