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I am honored to be interviewing 10 women in project management this year, as part of my 10th anniversary celebrations. Sarah Coleman is the guest today, and she has been an inspiration in her leadership work.
Sarah is coauthor of Project Leadership. It’s a book about…leading project teams! It’s now in its third edition and covers communication, vision, strategy, engagement, and communication. Sarah has a long history of leading change projects. I was able to catch up with Sarah to learn how her leadership has transformed project management.
Sarah, what has been the transformation in project management and leadership?
Two directions have been suggested to me for the transformation:
The evolution of the traditional view of project management
Recognizing that leadership is not only for the top tier of an organisation at board level, every project manager must have some leadership skills to be successful.
Project management is increasingly being used as a management tool across all industry sectors for diverse types of non-business-as-usual activities. It assists organisations in the design, delivery, and development of products and services for clients externally.
It is also moving away from project planning and control tools as the key to success and more towards the management and leadership people and their performance.
[Also, the economic downturn of the last few years has made it more unpredictable and the organisations need to be more flexible and opportunistic. Redundancies and new realities of work (for example, influencing with no authority, collaboration matrix and virtual working) mean that the organisation expects less and even more.
All of these factors have led me to believe that leadership skills and behaviours are increasingly important at all levels of the business, including project management. No matter what title you hold, whether you are a leader, manager or planner, we all know that leadership skills are important to any role. My background is in programme and project management so I find the shift to leadership exciting and interesting.
It’s a significant shift, and one that is welcome. However, it’s also a significant one when you consider what project management was 10 years ago. Why do you think people are more aware of leadership’s power today?
My view is that there is a growing awareness about the human factors behind projects. It is a sense that projects are essentially human endeavors and that it is our communication, management, and leadership that help us secure success.
This does not diminish the importance of planning, risk, and value analysis, nor do they lose their role. It is a rebalancing. It is not limited to the construction and heavy engineering sectors. Global projects range from software development and product launches to business change initiatives and major sporting and entertainment events.
You would also say that the people involved are diverse.
These projects can be small and discrete or large and complex multi-currency projects that involve tiered supply chains, multicultural and multi-located virtual team members in multiple time zones. They are responsible for a wide range stakeholders who all have their own ideas of success.
Projects are no more typically delivered from within one organisation. They require collaboration and partnership from many organizations.