In the technology field, we could say that project excellence is any delivered component that functions as designed. Or we could follow the three constraints of scope, cost, and schedule. You took the requirements, fleshed out the details, managed all the risk, and threatened when necessary. Now you have a completed project with on-time delivery with miraculous results on your budget. Better yet, you’ve gained colleague trust that you know how to guide a project to completion without risks becoming issues successfully. You’ll probably be asked for by name the next time a project begins to ramp up.
Here is where you need to change your measurements of success so that they align with how you perceive being excellent at managing projects. You’ve got your certification, a few years experience, and even the willingness to learn new technology. But certification alone will not grant you the key to success. The moment you are assigned a project you need to pause after understanding the complexity of a project and the different factors that will influence the technical progress and set a performance standard as the Project or Program Manager. If you looked at the last few projects you completed, what were the essential takeaways? Probably the relationships you built, the things you learned, and what you armed your project resources with. If you lead a program or project in technology then loading your project resources with learning opportunities and pairing them in creative ways, then that isn’t just success–that drives towards excellence.
Over the course of a project, you develop many relationships that have components of a technical nature or rely on general administrative support activities. In either case, your project’s success requires the intrinsic communication capabilities you need to have as a Program or Project Manager. The value of those relationships often shows themselves when a project is in crisis and requires intensive scrutiny. You often find that in times of crisis that there are those resources who do not scramble for the dark recesses of bug testing and widget making. You’ve never quite had true camaraderie during a project until a software engineer comes to you to report that they’ve made a colossal mistake in the code that was delivered to the customer but they are willing to own up to it and work to fix it. Are you a Program or Project Manager with the emotional intelligence to honor that kind of honesty? Monitor your project resources and stakeholders and how those professional relationships have developed over time. You don’t need a spreadsheet to know that you’ve grown meaningful and lasting work relationships. Gauge your performance by writing down your goals before the project starts. This isn’t an exercise in a top ten list; it’s a quick goal setting moment just before you kick off that is focused on your performance.
Your junior project resources need you, and they should be in one of those goals. As an example, if your project team is charged with developing an analytics model that will enable an organization to make more rapid decisions in the workplace you will most likely have some seasoned database engineers and some junior resources. At the end of that project, one measurement of your success is that junior resources were mentored in such a way that they now have essential knowledge concerning the data related to the project and will be sought after for future ones. How many project resources would tell you at the end of the project that the communication channels you developed during the project helped them progress more quickly? Look at your junior team at the beginning of the project and write a performance goal with them in mind.
Conversely, your seasoned project team members who hold high measures of technical knowledge need to have a great impact, but they also need to feel comfortable enough to be creative and be able to flex their professional muscle. During a project, there can sometimes be a propensity for highly skilled resources to take the most difficult or challenging tasks and complete them in a vacuum. Often the less experienced don’t get the chance to think critically inside very challenging tasks or conversely can be overcome by them. Make it a goal to be able to identify the more challenging components of your new project and how you might construct a small team to tackle them so that your experienced players can mentor those less so and increase their impact. It’s critical to use your communication tactics and tools to mold your team in such a way that even geographical barriers can be overcome.
Lastly, what is your take away from the project? Do you think you will develop any new project management skills or do you believe that you might gain some very useful technical know how that allows you to expand your career? Take a moment to think about not only the volume of project know-how you bring to a team but how much knowledge you may also gain from it.
Remember that Project Excellence is team-based, and with you as a leader, you need to focus on performance measures that enable team and resource success.