Behavioral Leadership: An Integral Aspect of Project Success
Steven Parfitt, MPAC615
All projects are restricted by three primary constraints: scope, time, and cost. It is no secret that utilizing project management practices, such as proper planning, allow for increased efficiency and improved adaptation to overcome these constraints. Unfortunately, as seen in the following excerpt taken from an article written by Benoit Hardy-Vallee, it is clear that successful project execution is a bit more complex than meets the eye:
“A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which reviewed 10,640 projects from 200 companies in 30 countries and across various industries, found that only 2.5% of the companies successfully completed 100% of their projects. A study published in the Harvard Business Review, which analyzed 1,471 IT projects, found that the average overrun was 27%, but one in six projects had a cost overrun of 200% on average and a schedule overrun of almost 70%.”
So why is it, given the growth and development of today’s management tools, such as Six Sigma, total quality management, and lean management, that a great percentage of projects are still failing in regards to meeting their constraints? Benoit Hardy-Vallee seems to believe that project failures are a result of organizations putting more emphasis on rational factors as opposed to the behavioral dynamics of employees. I, for one, agree with his argument.
Most managers excel in the enforcement of rational factors, such as processes, policies, and procedures. These tangible elements, often addressed in the classroom, are vital to the implementation of a successful project. It is important that uniform standards and written plans be created and imposed upon all members of a project team. However, those managers who feel these are the only factors that should be addressed are largely mistaken.
The title of “Project Manager” is deceiving. A manager can be anyone who simply dictates activities. However, a project manager must also be an inspiring leader. “Management is partly science and partly art. It is also the same for project management and a project manager should know some arts as well as knowledge.” The “arts” to which Hamid Shafaei Bejestan is referring, are those of leadership and personal skills. The demise of many projects stems back to its manager and their failure to lead. A leader must provide emotional support and promote development in its team. Behavioral leadership is just as important, if not more important, than the rational factors that management so often addresses. Motivating and instilling trust in a project team improves morale which inevitably results in greater productivity. A team member who feels that their work is actually contributing to the overall success of a project is much more apt to put forth superior effort.
While working for a construction company the past few summers, I labored under several project managers, each with a different attitude and technique when it came to managing the crews. From personal experience I have found that the manager who encouraged me and awarded me with responsibility was the one who earned my respect. Respect and trust motivated me to work hard to satisfy this boss. On the other hand, the manager who never took the time to acknowledge my work and inspire me with increased responsibility led to reduced incentive to work hard. Although this is a small scale example, it infers that projects of all magnitudes can severely suffer or shine based on management’s approaches.
Project failures can result in immense costs to an organization, both in lost profits from breach of constraints as well as the loss of future jobs from a client. The incorporation of rational factors, while quite necessary, are not the only elements needed to improve the potential of a project’s success. A project manager must also portray the traits of a behavioral leader if success is to be truly optimized.