Tuesday, October 23, 2007

If Lao Tzu were a project manager - part 1

I did a presentation a while back with a colleague where we compared the leadership styles of Lao Tzu and Sun Tzu. I was thinking about that presentation recently and came up with the idea of doing a series on what Lao Tzu would do if he were a project manager. So here’s the first of the series, starting with project initiation and the project vision.

“If the sage governs with vision then his people will not go wrong.” – Tao Te Ching, Chapter 3

During my recent presentation at the PMI Conference, I talked about how important the vision was in agile projects. In reality, it is important for all projects. A good vision will help the project manager and team make good decisions down the road. The vision should be developed during initiation and captured in the project charter.

Is the project manager responsible for the vision? To some degree, yes. Ideally, the project owner should be the one with the vision. However, the project manager should challenge the project owner to ensure the vision is good.

So what is a good vision? It should give the project team a picture of the end state. It should provide motivation. It should come to their rescue during project conflict.

I recall one project I managed where the vision was good. We were building a computer-based product catalog (before the days of the web). The owner gave us the general features he wanted but he also had a vision of a product that would “wow” the customer when they installed it, something that would look really cool. That vision shaped the project. The team got excited to show off new ideas. When we were at decision points, we thought about which choice better supported the vision. Having a good vision drove us to a successful project.

So what’s the vision of your project? Does the team know it? Is it working to guide your project? If not, maybe you need to talk to your project owner.

1 comment:

Mariposa Speaks said...

defining the vision seems so obvious yet such a challenge to most people...not only in pm but life as well...tough ha!