Project Management as a Tool for Leadership Development
How do companies that apply formal project management use the process to develop leadership skills that benefit project managers and future company leaders?
Projects have long been a part of the glass and ceramic industry. Projects—whether they are capital or process improvement—and the associated project management process help manufacturing operations gain a competitive edge. Today’s ceramic and glass industry requires every part of the facility to run lean, faster and more efficient. Whether at the hot end or the cold end, human resources, automation, process systems, and equipment are especially critical, as they must be the foundation for driving lower manufacturing costs while improving product quality and increasing productivity.
Project Management Benefits
Ceramic manufacturing plants are technically highly complex. As such, many in the industry have implemented formal project management systems and, based on this experience, have seen the advantages of project management. Paul Naybour, a project management trainer and consultant, highlights the following advantages:1
- Effective decision making—problem solving is critical in project management. With defined roles and responsibilities, and project objectives, the project manager is required to have clarity in decision making. Confusion over decision making is one of the main causes of delay in projects.
- Formal process—having a clear roadmap for a project supported by a common set of repeatable processes speeds up the project initiation phase and ensures teams and stakeholders know what is expected of them so projects can be delivered to requirements, saving money and time.
- Controlled project scope—an effective method will help manage scope, which is a common cause of cost and time over-runs.
- Project receiver/client knows what to expect—a project management method helps ensure that client and project team are in agreement on what will be delivered.
- Better problem resolution—the risk management processes of a project management method will ensure risks can be anticipated and prepared for. The resulting communication processes also means surprises are minimal.
- Controlled costs—a more clearly defined project with good time and cost estimates and tracking of actual costs all help to control costs.
- Struggling projects are more quickly identified—project management methods reveal those projects that are in trouble; as a result, decisions to change requirements or close the project can be done in a timelier manner.
- A happier, more motivated team—projects that are controlled, with fewer surprises, can be more satisfying. This can underpin team motivation, which then helps with achieving project objectives.
When evaluating the advantages of using project management, several common themes are associated with leadership development. Since many companies are looking for effective ways to develop leaders for the future, the management of projects provides a solid base for providing experience that supports long-term leadership skills development. In a recent Harvard University article, the importance of leadership development and its implications for project management was highlighted:
According to Deloitte’s “Human Capital Trends Report 2016,” leadership continues to be the most pervasive human capital concern among business leaders, with 89% of respondents viewing building leadership capability as a high priority. It is particularly crucial for organizations to invest in developing leadership skills for project managers, who are the ones tasked with keeping projects on track to meet goals and help build for the future.2
How do companies that apply formal project management use the process to develop leadership skills that benefit project managers and future company leaders? Workfront, a project management software firm, conducted a poll of project management professionals from across various industries and from various sizes to garner the best insight for leadership development for improving project management skill. Of the 81 professionals who shared their experience, three leadership skills stood out that not only help project management effectiveness, but are also critical as these project managers move into broader leadership roles.3
This skill is critical within the project context. By improving communication, leaders broadens skills for application in other leadership roles, especially when interfacing with executives and other organizations/departments such as supply chain, finance, human resources, external suppliers, and customers.
Building Organizational Community
An effective leader, whether they are a project manager or a manufacturing executive, is built on a solid foundation of trust, mutual respect, and accountability. In addition, every team needs a culture and working environment where everyone on the team feels heard and acknowledged, and their contributions are recognized. For this to happen, the leadership skills must foster a strong organizational network. In the long run, this will be a foundation for the support of company executives, organizational leaders, and possibly customers.
Leadership is about building on strengths and motivating the team to attain high standards. Leadership is also about helping people while simultaneously understanding personnel’s strengths and working around weaknesses. For this to happen, leadership skills must foster a strong organizational network, thereby benefiting long-term organizational leadership collaboration.
- Naybour, Paul, “The Benefits of Following a Project Management Method,” www.apm.org.uk/blog/the-benefits-of-following-a-project-management-method.
- Hersh, Erica, “The Next Generation of Project Management: How to Develop Technical and Leadership Expertise,” www.hsph.harvard.edu/ecpe/next-generation-project-management.
- Florentine, Sharon, “6 Ways to be a Better Project Manager,” www.cio.com/article/3079034/project-management/6-ways-to-be-a-better-project-manager.html.
Any views or opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not represent those of Ceramic Industry, its staff, Editorial Advisory Board or BNP Media.