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Michel Dion, in his book Leadership Toolbox for Managers, writes that the current project management theory was first developed in the 20th Century, when organizations were based upon the operational model with a few projects. He continues:
This model was appropriate for the 20th century, when the social, technological, and cultural environments were still relatively stable. This model is too simplistic. It assumes that you can spend two years analysing something, three years implementing it, and then close the project by transferring the assets to the operations, which will continue doing the same thing for twenty more years. Today, the context is very different. The world will likely have changed by the time that you’re done analysing and even more by the time that you’re done implementing.
There are enough books that teach us how to use processes. We need guidance on how to use them in the real world. This includes the annoying admin assistant and hidden agendas. This is the world I try and manage projects in. It’s not a perfect situation where everyone follows the best practices (although Michel’s book does conform to the PMBOK(r).
This book is intended to be a practical guide to the skills that you need to lead projects in an imperfect environment. It is similar to Jake Holloway and co’s A Practical guide to Dealing With Difficult Participants. (Read my interviews here, here and here with the authors.
Michel also said:
It is dangerous to assume that all issues are related to tools and techniques. This is an oversimplification of the problem. This view says that you can achieve success if all processes are implemented correctly and fully.
Because success is guaranteed when you follow a process… surely no one with any leadership experience or project management would still think that people are irrelevant in all of this.
These are the 5 leadership qualities that you need
Chapter 4 is the only chapter that contains any substantive information about leadership. The first sections are all about setting the scene and laying the groundwork. Michel says these are the qualities of a leader.
As you may know, I’m happy with the results so far, but continuous improvement is a nice addition to this list.
As a leader, look after yourself
The best thing about this book was the fact that it included the parts about being human at the beginning. It discusses wellness as a theme for leaders, and not as an afterthought at the end.
Michel laments the busyness of our jobs, but he says we must take care of ourselves. He also suggests getting enough sleep.
Michel believes leaders should be judged on their results, not hours worked. I agree with him. He says that your success in the job is ultimately determined by your actions, decisions, and results.
Today, project management is even more important
Michel says that project management is used to manage more tasks within an organization and more important things. This makes it even more important than the connection with strategy and leadership.
New research on leadership
Chapter 11 contains Michel’s survey results about leadership. It asked for narrative responses so I cannot summarize it for you with statistics.
It also includes a list of the most common challenges, which are:
Ability to take timely and effective decisions
Interaction with senior management
Management of contracts
Understanding politics in an organization.
I expect you to recognize some, if certainly all of these challenges.
It’s not a toolbox.