Leadership-Collaboration Management

Most projects are overmanaged and underled. Admiral Grace Hopper once said, "You cannot manage men into battle: You manage things ... you lead people." What is the difference between project management and project leadership? Although there is an elusive line between them, the core difference is that management deals with complexity, while leadership deals with change. Without adequate management, complex projects rapidly descend into chaos. Plans, controls, budgets , and processes help project managers stave off potential project- threatening complexity. However, when uncertainty, risk, and change are prominent, these practices are insufficient.

Project managers should be both managers and leaders , with the importance of the latter escalating rapidly as the exploratory nature of projects increases . [1] Good leadership contributes significantly to project success. As authors Carl Larson and Frank LaFasto (1989) point out, "Our research strongly indicates that the right person in a leadership role can add tremendous value to any collective effort."

[1] The terms "project manager" and "team leader" are commonly used. I will use these terms also, but I will emphasize the leadership characteristics of the project manager's role.

Leaders are leaders not because of what they do, but because of who they are. Authoritarian managers use power, often in the form of fear, to get people to do something their way. Leaders depend for the most part on influence rather than power, and influence derives from respect rather than fear. Respect, in turn , is based on qualities such as integrity, ability, fairness, truthfulnessin short, on character. Leaders are part of the project team, and although they are given organizational authority, their real authority isn't delegated top down but earned bottom up. From the outside a managed team and a led team can look the same, but from the inside they feel very different.

Project managers who are effective at delivering in complex situationsplanning in detail, creating organizational positions and roles, monitoring through detailed budget and progress reports , and solving the myriad day-to-day project problemsdon't like change. Change leads to paradox and ambiguity, and these managers spend enormous energy trying to drive ambiguity and change out of their projects.

Leaders, as opposed to managers, encourage changeby creating a vision of future possibilities (which are usually short on details), by interacting with a large network of people to discover new information that will help turn the product vision into reality, and by creating a sense of purpose in the endeavor that will motivate people to work on something outside the norm.

Projects, like organizations, need both leaders and managers. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to find both skill sets in the same person. And since creating a project budget is more tangible than, say, resolving the ambiguity that arises when trying to satisfy conflicting customer groups, project management training tends to focus on tangible practices and tools. Growing leadership skills in managers is clearly possible, but it requires a dedication to understanding the differences between the two roles.

As authors Phillip Hodgson and Randall White (2001) observe, "Leadership is what crosses the frontier between what we did yesterday and what we'll do tomorrow. We'll argue that the real mark of a leader is confidence with uncertaintythe ability to admit to it and deal with it." The authors pose six questions that illustrate the damaging illusions of our 20th-century approaches to management:

  • Why do you believe you are in control?
  • Why do you behave as if you can predict the future, its consequences and outcomes ?
  • Why do you think that because you've done it before and it worked that it will work again?
  • Why do you believe everything important is measurable?
  • Why do you think that words like leadership, management, and change have the same meaning for everyone?
  • Why do you think that reducing uncertainty will necessarily increase certainty ? (Hodgson and White 2001)

Agile project managers help their team balance at the edge of chaossome structure, but not too much; adequate documentation, but not too much; some up-front architecture work, but not too much. Finding these balance points is the "art" of management. While books like this can help readers understand the issues and identify practices that help, only experience can refine a manager's art. High exploration-factor projects are full of anxiety, change, ambiguity, and uncertainty that the project team must deal with. It takes a different style of project management, a different pattern of project team operation, and a different type of project manager. I've labeled this type of management leadership-collaboration.

A leadership-collaboration management style creates a certain kind of social architecture, one that enables organizations and teams to face the volatility of their environment. Such a social architecture blends performance and passion, results and egalitarianism. As I've written elsewhere, "Commanders know the objective; leaders grasp the direction. Commanders dictate ; leaders influence. Controllers demand; collaborators facilitate. Controllers micro-manage; collaborators encourage. Managers who embrace the leadership-collaboration model understand their primary role is to set direction, to provide guidance, and to facilitate connecting people and teams " (Highsmith 2000). The values of APM resonate with concepts such as egalitarianism, competence, self-discipline, and self-organization. A leadership-collaboration management style creates a social architecture in which these values flourish.

Jim Collins (2001) has a similar concept that he refers to as a "culture of discipline," meaning self-discipline, not imposed discipline. In discussing company growth and the frequent imposition of "professional management" to control that growth, Collins says, "The company begins to hire MBAs and seasoned executives from blue-chip companies. Processes, procedures, checklists, and all the rest begin to sprout up like weeds. What was once an egalitarian environment gets replaced with a hierarchy. They create order out of chaos, but they also kill the entrepreneurial spirit. The purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline."

Or, as Dee Hock (1999) so eloquently puts it, "In the Chaordic Age, success will depend less on rote and more on reason; less on the authority of the few and more on the judgment of the many; less on compulsion and more on motivation; less on external control of people and more on internal discipline." So, the last three guiding principles of APM address how to achieve a leadership-collaboration management styleEncourage Exploration, Build Adaptive (Self-Organizing, Self-Disciplined) Teams, and Simplify.

The Agile Revolution

Guiding Principles: Customers and Products

Guiding Principles: Leadership-Collaboration Management

An Agile Project Management Model

The Envision Phase

The Speculate Phase

The Explore Phase

The Adapt and Close Phases

Building Large Adaptive Teams

Reliable Innovation

Agile Project Management. Creating Innovative Products
Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products (2nd Edition)
ISBN: 0321658396
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 96
Authors: Jim Highsmith

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