A collection of thoughts and tips for a modern project manager

I started creating some notes on this topic sometime ago. However, I concluded that I would never get around to polishing and finishing. Sitting in a Stanford MBA lecture on Managing Groups & Teams prompted me to publish what I had pieced together – I therefore decided to post the draft/notes version. Please accept my apologies for the unfinished nature of this blog.

My experiences managing complex software projects and coaching other within an agile environment has refined my management style. As a result of these experiences, my approach now builds on the notion that self-organizing teams are ultimately more effective than ‘command and control’ environments.

According to Michael Kennedy in his book ‘Product Development for the Lean Enterprise’ he argues that to achieve positive transformational change ‘The leader must be willing to let go’. Or, more simply, a leader needs to set the high level vision but not the implementation details. Letting go like this could be considered risky and prone to failure – one might think of chaos as a possible outcome. However, some proponents of modern management theory, as defined by the book ‘The Minding Organisation’, suggest that in order to achieve ‘emergent order’, one must embrace ‘deliberate chaos’. Pushing implementation details – opposed to setting high level vision and encouraging a team to plan implementation details appropriately on demand – often creates a state of perceived order, followed closely by a state of ‘emergent chaos’ and an expensive and often unsatisfactory rework.

Most successful ancient and modern military leaders, going as far back as Sun Tsu, suggest that delegation of authority, while maintaining a clear vision and the ability to shape objectives and overall strategy, is critical to success on the battle field.

Leaning towards a style supporting effective group behavior opposed to delegation of task based work chunks is a known successful strategy in both military and business environment. It is the specific implementation of how these groups are formed and nurtured that is considered the art.

Managing team dynamics and facilitating smooth interaction within a complex environment needs to become a strength of a project manager. A focus on developing and embracing cross functional, self-organising teams enables seamless scalability, whilst retaining the ability to shape and refine objectives and vision.

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