What About Project Management?: Turning Project Managers Into Project Leaders

Friday, April 03, 2009

Part 3 of What About Project Management?

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A couple of years ago I heard about a TV show with an amazing dog behaviorist named Cesar Millan. Each week, Cesar would walk into someone’s home with a troublesome hound whose owners had "tried everything" to train the dog. They considered the pooch a hopeless case, and Cesar was their last chance. In most cases, within the first 30 minutes of his visit, Cesar had complete control over the rogue canine much to the amazement of the owners. His secret: it wasn't the dog; it was a lack of leadership from the owners.

Cesar's philosophy is simple. Dogs are pack animals that follow a leader. A pack leader doesn't scream, get excited, or frustrated. They lead with what Cesar calls "calm, assertive energy." Many of the lessons on pack leadership apply to team leadership as well.

To be a successful project manager, I believe that you must first have the domain knowledge necessary to understand the project. If you are in IVD development, this means that you should have a good understanding of the science and the regulations impacting your project, not just how to build schedules and risk tables. It is the domain knowledge that gives you the credibility required to lead a team.

Like many people, I came to project management from the lab. I understood the science, but not how to manage a project or a team. I was fortunate to have great mentors who taught me the art of project management. I learned early in my career that having a calm yet assertive energy was much better than running around with my hair on fire demanding that people complete their tasks on time.

You need the right energy level to be able to lead a team. But this style isn't suited for everyone. Some companies will try to address this with a hybrid approach to project leadership, having a project manager that acts as the administrator and a project leader that acts as the "visionary champion" of the project. Many drug development teams are run this way, and frankly I don't understand how they make it work.

Think back to the dog pack. Do they have one leader urging them to press on while another is analyzing animal droppings to determine which way to go? There can be only one project leader, so it is important that organizations - particularly those in design control environments - put strong leaders (not just administrators) in the role of project manager.

A team should have a technical leader driving the science, just as they should have leadership from the other functions represented on the team. But in the end, a team needs a single project leader to guide the team through all aspects of the design and development process. Oh, and plenty of calm, assertive energy.

Tags: Best Practices, Design Control, Project Management

Part 3 of What About Project Management?

View part: [ 1 | 2 | 3 ]

« Three Key Principles

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