Good Manager and Good Leader in Project Management

In our text, Chapter 10 Leadership: Being and Effective Project Manager states the following section in Managing versus Leading a Project:

In a perfect world, the project manager would simply implement the project plan and the project would be completed. The project manager would work with others to formulate a schedule, organize a project team, keep track of progress, and announce what needs to be done next, and then everyone would charge along. Of course no one lives in a perfect world, and rarely does everything go according to plan. Project participants get testy; they fail to complement each other; other departments are unable to fulfill their commitments; technical glitches arise; work takes longer than expected. The project manager’s job is to get the project back on track. A manager expedites certain activities; figures out ways to solve technical problems; serves as peacemaker when tensions rise; and makes appropriate tradeoffs among time, cost, and scope of the project. However, project managers do more than put out fires and keep the project on track. They also innovate and adapt to ever-changing circumstances. They often have to deviate from what was planned and introduce significant changes in the project scope and schedule to respond to unforeseen threats or opportunities.


I have lead and participated in my fair share of failed projects, because as stated in the text we do not live in a perfect world. I think the biggest reason my failed projects failed was due to lack of engagement and commitment in the team. When the business needs to get something done, it gets done. We have our fair share of people who can rally the team when needed, but all the small “like to haves” or “better than” projects seem to fail because people are not interested in continuous improvement when they have to struggle to keep their heads above water when trying to complete their own work let alone a project. That is why this section resonated with me, “the project manager has to innovate and adapt to ever-changing circumstances”. This type of flexibility is critical in any and all projects. I know that in my world in healthcare we have more failures than we have success, but we keep persisting because those successes are worth all the effort to get. One common thread in my successful projects that I found to be most enjoyable to participate in, was that I had a good manager and a good leader. The text describes the difference in a leader and manager in the project as, “Good management brings about order and stability by formulating plans and objectives, designing structures and procedures, monitoring results against plans, and taking corrective action when necessary. Leadership involves recognizing and articulating the need to significantly alter the direction and operation of the project, aligning people to the new direction, and motivating them to work together to overcome hurdles produced by the change and to realize new objectives.”


Have you ever participated in a project with a great leader and a great manager? Or on the other hand, have you ever participated in a project with a poor leader and a poor manager? What were the results?

Establish an Organizational Culture that Supports Projects

I read a great article from Business Improvement Architects:


The article neatly describes the problem with the current way organizations handle projects and how the cultures are evolving to have committees to steer the projects in the right direction. The article states the problem as, “Projects are becoming a critical part of corporate success yet research tells us that most projects do not fully succeed. According to the 2004 PriceWaterhouseCoopers Survey of 10,640 projects valued at $7.2 billion, across a broad range of industries, large and small, only 2.5% of global businesses achieve 100% project success and over 50% of global business projects fail. The Chaos Survey by The Standish Group reports similar findings. They say that 71% of all projects are either “challenged” (due to late delivery, being over-budget, or delivering less than required features), or “failed” and are cancelled prior to completion or the product developed is never used. Their statistics have not effectively changed since 1994.”

The article continues to site how the support of the organization was one of the main predictors of how a project would turn out as either successful or failure. The article states, “Business Improvement Architect’s 2005 project management research of over 750 organizations world-wide shows that 60% of Project Management Offices (PMO) say that the organizational culture is not supportive of the PMO. The major reason for project failure is that most organizations do not ensure that all projects they implement align with their organization’s corporate strategy”. Once companies are able to implement an organization culture that supports projects, the organization is able to experience the following benefits:
Projects will be aligned with corporate strategies, ensuring that business objectives are met.Projects come in on time, so your time to market is improved.

Projects come in on budget, potentially saving millions each year.

Projects meet customer expectations so customer satisfaction levels increase.

Project teams are more effective and efficient, leading to high morale and more dedicated staff.

How has your company supported one of your projects? How does their support or lack of support contribute to the success or failure of the project?

Form versus Knowledge for Project Managers

I selected Dr. Safarians to be the person for my interview for various reasons, and I am very happy that I did interview her. She was a project manager at the time, but her presence and knowledge was intimidating. She was speaking to my boss’s boss at the time and I happened to walk into the room requesting an approval on a protocol when I caught her discussion on her current project. She left a lasting impression on me, and I have respected her ever since.

Dr. Safarians had been promoted many levels in the past 9 years since I met her first. She had become a Director of Implementation. It is hard to describe what exactly this role does, as it is very complex and ever evolving as the realm of her responsibility changes, but it is a cross between a Director of Operations, Project Manager and Program Manager.

What brought Dr. Safarians into project management is that, “everything is a project, the only difference is the scope.” One of the items that she mentioned is that in undergraduate you learn about the projects and findings of others. You learn how others worked through problems and how they were able to solve the problems for others to grow from to lead to other discoveries. In graduate school to learn how to think for yourself to make those discoveries for others to learn from. Dr. Safarians earned her doctorate so that she could have the creditability to work on of her choosing projects and to demonstrate that she is a source of authority on matters pertaining to her field of expertise.

Her educational background has helped her because she can give substance to the project. Dr. Safarians stated that, “project managements have to be masters of form, not necessary knowledge. Project managers give the form to the discussions and schedule’s, they give shape to the deliverables. They do not have the technical side. They need to become technically savvy to understand. A project manager that manages to the schedule are not able to facilitate to the project.” With her knowledge she is able to embrace constructive discussions and understand the various perspectives of an issue in the project to give a better solution to a problem, or break down a barrier.

            There are two points that I would your response to. The first is, has your journey to get your MBA helped you gain credibility in your job when it comes to making decisions, and if so how? The other is, the discussion about form versus knowledge. I have worked with project managers that have facilitied and have lead, and only after interviewing Dr. Safarians did I realize that project managers do not always have to be the point of author or decision making, they can be guides or intermediates for knowledge. What are your thoughts on form versus knowledge?

The One Minute Manager

There are more books on how to be a good project manager than you can wave a stick at. Our text books are riddled with references and examples, but when I read our text-it is missing a very key point. That the person running the project in the role they are running it is still a manager. A very different kind of manager, as they are not involved in the routine tasks. However a project manager is still a manager none the less. As such each manager has to have a foundation and style of management that they can rely on to guide them through the project. A book, yes I am recommending a book to you, that I have read which echos some of the tips and techniques that a good manager should have in any project or in any role is, “The One Minute Manager” by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. Here is why I recommend this book, it provides you with tips you can use the same day of reading, the book is very light (less than 100 pages) with big print, and here is what hooked me, “Help People Reach Their Full Potential. Catch Them Doing Something Right!” is one of tenants of the book. This sentenced restructured my frame of thinking. When in a project it is always easy to measure people who did and did not meet the goal or assignment, but providing them positive reinforcement during the assignment will give you better than expected results. Here are the cliff notes versions of the tenants:

  1. People who feel good about themselves produce good results.
  2. Help people reach their full potential. Catch them doing something right.
  3. The best minute I spend is the one I invest in people.
  4. Everyone is a potential winner. Some people are disguised as losers, don’t let their appearances fool you.
  5. Take a minute: look at your goals, look at your performance, see if your behavior matches your goals.
  6. We are not just our behavior. We are the person managing our behavior.
  7. Goals begin behaviors, consequences maintain behaviors.


When I think about project management, I think of this approach to my team. It has helped me in many different ways and helped me to tap into the potential of those people who would be wall flowers on my project. By using these tenants to frame a person in my team I have gotten excellent results. How do these tenants strike you? Do you feel it could benefit yourself as a member of a team or as a manager or even a project manager? Do you have any examples of someone taking this approach with you as a project team member?

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Outsourcing Project Management

In chapter 12, Outsourcing “Managing Interorganizational Relations” the text references some of the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing project work. Below are the abbreviated points the text makes:

For the advantages they mention:

1. Cost reduction. Companies can secure competitive prices for contracted services,

especially if the work can be outsourced offshore.

2. Faster project completion. Not only can work be done more cheaply, but it can

also be done faster. Competitive pricing means more resources for the dollar.

For example, you can hire three Indian software engineers for the price of one

American software engineer.

3. High level of expertise. A high level of expertise and technology can be brought

to bear on the project. A company no longer has to keep up with technological

advances. Instead, it can focus on developing its core competencies and hire

firms with the know-how to work on relevant segments of the project.

4. Flexibility. Organizations are no longer constrained by their own resources but

can pursue a wide range of projects by combining their resources with talents

of other companies.

For the disadvantages they mention:

1. Coordination breakdowns. Coordination of professionals from different organizations

can be challenging, especially if the project work requires close collaboration

and mutual adjustment. Breakdowns are exacerbated by physical

separation with people working in different buildings, different cities, if not different


2. Loss of control. There is potential loss of control over the project. The core

team depends on other organizations that they have no direct authority over.

While long-term survival of participating organizations depends on performance,

a project may falter when one partner fails to deliver.

3. Conflict. Projects are more prone to interpersonal conflict since the different

participants do not share the same values, priorities, and culture. Trust, which

is essential to project success, can be difficult to forge when interactions are limited

and people come from different organizations.

4. Security issues. Depending on the nature of the project, trade and business secrets

may be revealed. This can be problematic if the contractor also works for

your competitor. Confidentiality is another concern and companies have to be

very careful when outsourcing processes like payroll, medical transcriptions,

and insurance information.

I liked the comparison and contrast of both the benefits and the costs of outsourcing. In my industry we have outsourced much of, if not all of, our IT support for network issues. I understand the company wanting to reduce cost and such, but there is the much bigger issue, the loss of our internal high level expertise. When we have network issues at our local plant database we have to go to our outsourced IT folks who hardly speak English and take two to three hours to resolve the problem, each time there is a problem. It frustrates me but I understand, why we use them. We want to focus on our core competencies, and IT is not one of them. Does your company use outsourcing? If so do you feel it helps your company focus on the issues they need to concentrate on enchaining?

The Man in the Glass

Working in project management is very frustrating. Have a diverifised team is even more so. There are so many competing interests and so many people that have their own agenda at times, that it seems many projects are destined to fail. At times like this and other instances I think of the team as a mirror. In that mirror I want to see the reflection of a person that is true to who I am and to the spirit of the project, accomplishing the right things. I want to share with the class the following poem by Dale Wimbrow.


 The Man in the Glass

When you get what you want in your struggle for self

And the world makes you king for a day,

Just go to the mirror and look at yourself,

And see what that man has to say.

For it isn’t your father or mother or wife,

Who judgment upon you must pass;

The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life

Is the one starring back from the glass.

He’s the fellow to please, never mind all the rest.

For he’s with you clear up to the end,

And you’ve passed the most dangerous, difficult test

If the man in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum,

And think you’re a wonderful guy,

But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum

If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years.

And get pats on the back as you pass,

But your final reward will be the heartaches and tears

If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

Dale Wimbrow (c) 1934



When I am dealing with difficult people, thinking about this poem and what it means really pulls in my inner strength and calm. Please share other poems or quotes or items that you feel resontates with you to give you strength to take on any challenge, or deal with any difficult situations/people working in you team. What advice would you offer others?