The Real Secret to Project Management

Proj MgtIn a recent blog entitled Has Your Strategic Plan Fallen Down the Rabbit Hole?, CEOs are encouraged to utilize project management (PM) to keep their strategic plan on track. Peter Marci, the Director of the project management discipline for a leading Interactive Agency, asks his favorite interview question, which is, “What do you feel is the secret to project management?” Typically he receives the answer, “communication.” This is, of course, not an incorrect answer. However, Mr. Marci feels that a different response would provide greater insight into the candidate. More about that answer later. As with everything, there is an art and a science to project management. Moreover, there is a lot of advice out there about how to best manage a project to keep it from falling in the proverbial rabbit hole. This advice includes:

  • Good communication (where have I heard that before?)
  • Strike a balance - don’t micromanage yet don’t be too hands off.
  • Use the right tools and resources
  • Plan
  • Build in training and development (including leadership)
  • Manage risk. Part of this is understanding the difference between easy and predictable tasks to the more complicated and complex.
  • Track the project in an honest manner
  • During check in times, ask open-ended questions and ask better questions.

This, of course, is not meant to be an exhaustive list or a tutorial on PM, yet these points do make for good advice. As mentioned, Mr. Marci prefers a deeper response to his question and that deeper response involves Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

EQ was popularized by Daniel Coleman in his book, Emotional Intelligence and it is defined as having the ability to…

  • Recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions
  • Recognize, understand, and influence the emotions of others

To that end, Mr. Marci suggests that while a project manager is responsible for meeting deadlines involving time, budgets, and resources, these deadlines can be met better utilizing EQ. For example, when you’re under the gun to meet these deadlines, rather than cutting someone off who comes up with an idea, stop and listen and see if it does indeed have merit. Further, he suggests:

  • Asking open ended questions
  • Having empathy
  • Weighing your responses
  • Understanding where people on a project are coming from
  • Managing your own emotions

While these items may not, as the first list, be a secret, there are other elements to consider that may be more of a “secret” simply because they are not so obvious. Here’s a story on how this secret appears during PM.

In speaking with a coaching client recently, she suggested that she struggled with “letting go” of projects. I reminded her that she is not really letting go, as she will manage the project by using many of the techniques mentioned in this article. In addition, I pointed out to her that each person on the PM team, works in different ways. For example, she has two direct reports Sue and Bob (not their real names). She needs to know each of these direct reports need to be managed differently, even though they are on the same project.

  • Bob is a star employee and may only require a check in point every six weeks. Sue, on the other hand, is not a star employee and may need more frequent check in points of every three weeks.
  • One employee may prefer email communication, while another may need face-to-face encounters. This helps ensure that good communication discussed earlier.
  • These employees may work at a different pace from one another. Therefore, you will need to assign tasks accordingly to meet your time deadlines.
  • Understand each participant on the project and assign tasks according to experience, talent, and skills. There is a balance here as with managing. You need to push employees to help them grow, but don’t set them up for failure – remember, you’ll go down with ship.
  • Every strategic initiative is made up of tasks. Your job is to assign those tasks, manage them, and help your team to understand where those tasks fit into the strategic initive and how they make up the big picture. Understanding this part of PM, helps keep the project on track.

PM may not always be easy. However, there are tools, resources, and techniques available to you to help unlock its real secrets.

Thank you for reading this blog. If you would like more information on understanding your employees’ talents and skills, call 404-320-7834 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit

Graphic Credit: Copyright: Poznyakov

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