News & Insights
Get Darth Vader as an Interim Contractor!
If I had a business critical project, and I could afford his day rate, I might be tempted to hire Darth Vader as my next Project Manager. What makes Darth Vader a good Project Manager? I can see from your expression that I have some convincing to do. OK, it might raise a few eyebrows around the office, but let’s look at the facts.
If you recall, Episode iv “A New Hope”, the first original Star Wars film, sees the evil Galactic Empire trying to build the Death Star. An ambitious project in anyone’s eyes. The project however was running behind schedule.
The poor chap in charge was informed by a very fancy video conference that Darth Vader was taking personal charge as the new Project Manager to get the project back on track. Darth was in true project recovery mode but how could he make the difference? He might have built C3P0 and a pod racer from scrap in his earlier incarnation as Anakin Skywalker, but he certainly had no major construction project experience.
Many organisations now elect to go down this route. They have the subject matter experts but now recognise that project management requires a different set of specialist skills. The tools and techniques of project management can be applied on any project and a good Project Manager should be able to add value to any environment, whether it’s an IT implementation, a hotel build, an office refurbishment or construction of a Death Star.
It is not uncommon for clients looking to recruit a permanent Project Manager to ask us to specifically source candidates from outside their industry. They want their Project Manager to bring a new perspective and some best practice. They are overflowing with technical, industry specific expertise, and what they need is a good solid professional Project Manager.
Why are we doing this project?
Darth Vader also certainly understood the business case and was fully committed into realising the benefits on his project as soon as possible. Every good Project Manager needs to make sure the benefits of the project are well understood by their team. It’s difficult to be motivated to work hard on a project if you don’t understand the reasons for it. Communicating a clear purpose and ensuring the business case remains valid through the full project life cycle (not just the start) are key skills for any Project Manager.
Maintaining good communication with senior managers is very important, particularly for the career minded Project Manager. Darth Vader ensured the Emperor was kept up-to-date with regular progress reports. A Project Manager should complete their stakeholder identification & mapping. Once stakeholders are grouped into ‘minimal effort’, ‘keep informed’, ‘keep satisfied’ and ‘key players’ then different approaches to communication for these different groups can be organised.
Your senior manager, sponsor and senior user usually fall into the last category, ‘key players’. Managing expectations of key players can be very important, particularly on projects that suffer from significant changes. “Did you know we had to agree to deliver XYZ but for only £x additional budget, it’s going to make on time delivery difficult” is an important message to get to those who are deciding your next career step.
Although you make think twice before inviting him to the project completion party, Darth Vader certainly was an authoritative figure who commanded respect. It’s unlikely any of his project team would spend the day surfing the Internet or refilling their staplers. A Project Manager must show that they are in charge and are willing and able to take responsibility. The success or failure of the project is down to them after all. Leadership skills and the ability to motivate are other facets required of the all round Project Manager.
I have highlighted some of the key skills of the Project Manager, some perhaps that Darth Vader may not be particularly strong at himself. It is pleasing to note that there is wide recognition that project management is a specialist job function that requires a range of skills beyond those associated with traditional management.
I have heard a quote saying that 60% of Project Managers are still appointed for just one project. How likely is it that these people are able to develop their skills quickly enough for that first project to benefit? I believe this percentage is shrinking and will continue to shrink as more organisations identify project management as a career path or a specialist expertise that should be brought in as needed.
There is no doubt that demand for ‘good’ Project Managers is very healthy. We are managing more vacancies (permanent & contract) than this time last year. So if you share some of Darth Vader’s skills and want to develop into a project management master, the opportunities are definitely there, just don’t turn to the dark side.