One of the latest project management trends involves a totally different kind of leadership: one where project managers don’t actually manage teams, but rather let teams manage themselves. It seems kind of backwards when compared to traditional, hard-line project management philosophies, but many project managers have become strong advocates.
Supporters express such benefits as better motivated staff, faster skills and leadership development, and better flow of communication between teams. Some of the ways they accomplish this are through:
A large part of delegating is making the decision to delegate at all. Far too many project managers are possessive of their task lists and responsibilities, as if those things equated to their worth within the company. But by clutching tasks that take up valuable time and brain space, these project managers are actually reducing their value to the company. They become too focused on the details, and not the big picture.
Leaders who delegate are able to keep a better eye on the project’s overall strategy and direction. They’re not mired in small stuff, so they have a clear head and are more likely to notice danger signs within project reports. Not only that, they will likely have more knowledge of and trust in their team’s abilities, which promotes morale and team cohesion.
Removing the Bottleneck
How many times has work ground to a halt when the project manager is suddenly unavailable? Top heavy teams start spinning their wheels, doing busywork while someone tries to contact the project manager or someone else who knows what the team’s next step is. The project manager becomes a bottleneck, and even when he is there, work automatically slows to his pace.
The key is to create project management teams that are able to operate on their own, with as little direction from management as possible, except for regular status updates and minor course corrections. The project manager is still in charge, but he no longer has to veto every little thing his teams do. This streamlines the approval process and makes work flow faster.
Do you know what happens when you tell people what to do all the time? They wait for you to tell them what to do next. You get a project management team full of order-takers, who sit and wait for the next batch of instructions instead of thinking for themselves. That isn’t strong leadership—that’s creating a crippled workforce.
Your team becomes much more effective when you encourage them to think critically and give them permission to voice—and act upon—their ideas. You also sow the seeds for leadership candidates, ones who will have the confidence and ability to lead teams of their own.
If you can develop highly effective junior leaders and create a highly motivated workforce, then your PMO can be composed of independent yet interconnected project management teams that can maintain their own momentum.
Image credit, Flickr, Robert Couse-Baker