Are you an unofficial project manager?

I have just the blog for you! The article I found includes six project management skills taught by FranklinCovey (“7 Habits of Highly Effective People”).  The article is dated, but hopefully you will find the skills still very relevant. I have provided the six skills (paraphrased) and included my thoughts.

1. Implement foundational behaviors to master informal authority. Respect all stakeholders that may affect the outcome of the project, and you will receive the best work. Showing you value the stakeholders helps you inspire following, without formally establishing authority.

  • Thoughts:  One easy way to develop this skill is to lead a meeting.  This informal leadership is accomplished through organizing the discussion, seeking feedback, and keeping the meeting focused. If there is someone else who wants to lead, you always have the final say to end with a summary and a list of next steps.

2. Initiate. Identify and interview a project’s stakeholders. It is best to avoid the question “Why didn’t you check with me?” when verifying stakeholders. Planning ahead ensures you do not make the wrong assumptions about key people, and helps to set expectations and results.

  • Thoughts:  This skill takes time because you have to learn who to seek for information. From my experience, you may not know a key stakeholder at the beginning of a project. Based on issues raised, you may have to reach out to someone you had not previously worked with. It has been effective to include that person in the middle of the project, and explain that a new issue may require their feedback.

3. Plan. Identify risks, and create a plan to manage them. It is strong wording, but the article mentions failure if you do not have a schedule, in writing.  Also, what is your number one risk?

  • Thoughts: I found this one to be the most straightforward. A great practice of risk is to ask “if I do nothing, will it get worse?”

4. Execute. Holding people accountable is the article’s main focus. The leader should not embarass anyone, but ensure support is given to complete a task.

  • Thoughts: This may prove most challenging to a project manager. What has worked for me is to ask questions like “what can I do to help?” and “where do you see the bottleneck?”

5. Monitor and control. The most important thing here is managing changes in scope. The Project Manager has to have that conversation if change occurs, and discuss results of a change in scope in dollar value or other measure.

  • Thoughts: I read about team projects from the blog and listened to 2 students in class as they shared what can happen with “project creep.”  Project creep is costly in time or resources, so it’s advantageous to stay focused.

6. Close. Review lessons, and recognize accomplishments.

  • Thoughts:  There is a sense of excitement to completion!  Celebration is necessary and also creates an environment to do it again!

I most identified with skill numbers 1, 3, and 5. What skills do you most identify with?


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7 thoughts on “Are you an unofficial project manager?

  1. Completely agree with your outline! I find it fascinating that project management can span from pure business process optimization and enhancement of manufacturing capabilities for given firms all the way through to self help books! It’s amazing how much project management (even of the most formal varieties) occurs on daily basis without deep thinking on behalf of practitioners. I can closely relate to skills 1, 2, 3 — and I always find #2 to be the most challenging. Thoroughly capturing stakeholders’ expectations and perspectives, then ensuring they are addressed is a tall order. Many times the expectations can be direct conflicts, which requires a great of attention and management to ensure the most synergistic results are delivered.

    1. Thank you Al! I credit the FranklinCovey team for the ideas, and only wish that I could attend the course – I wonder how they measure if you “pass” the class? Also, it’s interesting that #2 is so broad on describing who a “stakeholder” is. I agree with you in how it is very challenging to even know what expectations will be, and then the pressure to meet the expectation.

  2. Lindsy, I found your post to be very informative. I found the skills you described very relevant. To be honest I don’t see how these skills could “go out of style” any time soon. When it comes to leading a project I have no experience of being a project manager. Other than some small finance projects here and there I’ve never been a project manager. When I read the skills you describe I gain a good perspective on what to pay attention to when leading a project. As I participate is small projects in my current job, I can closely relate to skill 1, 4, and 6. I also agree with Al’s post, that #2 is definitely the most challenging. People make assumptions all the time and often we find out the valuable information after the fact.

    1. Thank you for your comments Marzena. It sounds like you are already building upon your skillset and becoming ready whenever the project manager opportunity arises. A few years ago in my career, I remember doing the same reflections constantly, so if you think about what others do in that role that you like, you add it to your own version of the role. It is also just as valuable to know what you do not like, and make those notes too!

  3. I agree with you that the article maybe dated but the steps listed are still effective. For me, skills 1, 3, and 5 are also the most important.
    1. Implement foundational behaviors to master informal authority: I feel that no matter what a person’s title is, it’s important to treat all the members of the team with respect and listen to their ideas. This will ensure everyone is engaged in the project and make them feel like they are making valuable contributions. Also, it’s not necessary to exert one’s authority to lead a project but merely guide the people in the right direction
    3. Plan. Identify risks, and create a plan to manage them: Planning is an essential part of any project. When planning, it’s important to consider everyone’s input. It’s highly unlikely to plan for all risks therefore creating contingencies are an essential part of a successful project.
    5. Monitor and control. The most important thing here is managing changes in scope: Having a well-defined plan with due dates and deliverable are important to ensure project stays on track. It’s rather easy to lose focus and chase something that seems more attractive but it’s the project manager’s responsibility to ensure scope creep doesn’t infect the project or the team. While it may be necessary to adjust the scope time to time, it’s important to remember what the objective of the project is.

  4. I thought this article was very informative and should probably be used to guide on-boarding for incoming project managers. The point that resonated most with me was number 4:

    Execute. Holding people accountable is the article’s main focus. The leader should not embarrass anyone, but ensure support is given to complete a task.

    I found the second sentence particularly powerful. I feel like sometimes, a management position can go to someone’s head, especially if they are new to the job. It is crucially important to remember that your team members are assets and not just pawns. They must be used effectively. As many people often say, the mark of an effective manager can be found in the performance of the people. As long as team members feel their work is being appreciated and they have a motivating manager, they will be encouraged to perform to the best of their abilities.

  5. I agree with this article! It’s so important to hold people accountable for the tasks that they’re responsible for. If one thing falls behind then the whole project can be in jeopardy in not being completed on time. It can be difficult to call people out if they’re slacking but it has to be done. When I’m PM for projects, during the meeting I’ll project my desktop on the TV so everyone can see the notes that I’m taking. When someone is assigned to a task I’ll put it on the report and nobody can say they didn’t know. I’ll also send the report out in an email to recap the meeting.

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