Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I am the Captain of my own ship

The week before I left, two major events happened:
1. I won the European Project of the Year Award for FY14,
2. I sent my BlackBelt project deck for certification. I only have the presentation left before I can be certified.

After this great week, I took advantage of my holidays and thought about my job and my career. I wondered what key element makes me a successful Project Leader. Obviously, there is technical knowledge, but it is not always the key to success. Introversion is a distinctive element from my peers, though sometimes it can make a project go south. What really makes a difference is what I call having a sense of vision.

To me, having a sense of vision is to be able to visualize, to imagine what a solution / software / process will look like before it goes live. At home, it translates in having a clear idea what the room will look like before you start renovating it. As my parents both have vision, I thought for years that it was common to everyone. Leading projects, I discovered that not only it is not the case, but also that it comes really handy.

Because I am comfortable with IT topics, I often end working on software related projects. I have done a data entry software demo to the Unions Rep a couple of months ago and told my audience that the software will be in French (it was in English at the time) and that the field will be the same that the ones used today for each Customer (when I was showing a generic US customer configuration). In my head, I see pretty clearly what it is going to look like. My audience had a hard time doing the same, creating push back and fear of change. 

As a Project Leader, I am the one with a vision. As I am not my Team Members' Manager, I do my best to be their leader using vision and persuasion. I like the metaphor of acting as the Captain of a ship to describe the role of a Project Leader. Let take that journey together.

As I just said, I am the captain of the ship (Project Leader). I have been asked  and given the means by the Governor (Sponsor) to complete a mission (solve an issue). I need to gather a Crew (Team) depending of the size of my ship and destination (project). My Crew is made of a few volunteers, but mainly of people who take part of this journey out of necessity. 

My role is to convince them that I know where we are going (solution) and that no matter how hard the journey will get (DMAIC steps), it will be worth it and they will get their gold (benefits from the project). Food and water (investments and resources) are limited on board and need to be managed properly.

Once at sea, them leaving will make it harder to navigate (lead the project to success). They may lose their lives (from credibility to job) in the process of leaving. Once we get to the promised land (Control phase), we celebrate and share the gold (benefits). Then we move on to our next mission (project).